An adrenalin-fuelled teenager is urging her peers to embrace the outdoors after she broke with her routine to give adventure sports a go.
Rhiannon Sutton, 17, from Bennetts End in Hemel Hempstead, took the plunge when she signed up for a two-week National Citizen Service (NCS) youth empowerment programme.
Rhiannon, who has just finished at West Herts College, said: “Before going on NCS I was often prone to sticking to my routine and rarely tried anything new.
“Like many teenagers, it was easy to fall into the habit of staying indoors and I don’t think I realised what I was missing out on.”
Rhiannon’s experience comes after new research by NCS, which has revealed that a quarter of young people believe an online adventure is as satisfying as real life, and one in five have never had a real life adventure.
The new study of 1,000 teenagers shows over a half are afraid of trying new experiences and four in ten say they prefer spending time indoors over outdoor experiences.
Rhiannon, who is a former Kings Langley School student, said: “Signing up to NCS was a little scary initially. I didn’t know many others going and most of the activities were completely new to me, but I’m now so glad I gave it a go.
“The amount I learnt, the people I met and the opportunities I had to develop during the programme really made me realise the importance of trying new things.
“I’m now much more adventurous, even if I’m a little nervous about something, I’m willing to give it a try and know it’ll be worth it.
“It’s definitely an experience every young person should go through – some of the stories I will remember forever!”
The government-backed scheme focuses on fun and discovery while tackling social issues, cohesion and mobility.
More than 200,000 16 and 17-year-olds have benefited from taking part since the scheme was set up in 2011.
As well as enjoying a two or four-week stint away from home, youngsters have to commit 30 hours volunteering for a local community project.
Those who take part in NCS build skills for their future working life, while trying new things and talking to new people.
Donna Sutton, Rhiannon’s mum, noticed the difference in her daughter when she returned from her trip, saying: “Obviously it’s nerve-wracking letting your teen go away for a few weeks, but when Rhiannon returned I could instantly tell it was the right decision.
“She couldn’t wait to tell me about the adventures she had and the new friends she had made but for me what was most apparent was the transformation in her confidence. She was a different person.”
Ali Macdonald, operations manager at skills and employability specialist Ingeus, which delivers NCS in Essex and Hertfordshire, said: “Rhiannon’s story shows the importance of giving young people the space and opportunity to develop independently but within a safe environment.
“On NCS young people are supervised by our expert team leaders but given the autonomy to manage their own budgets, create their own meals and take control of their own development. It’s a great way to spend the summer holidays.”
NCS is open to all 16 and 17 year olds for no more than £50. For more information visit www.ncsingeus.co.uk
Got younger ones to entertain this summer? These are our five top things to do with kids in Dacorum:
1. Orienteering, mini beast hunts and more at Wild Wednesdays on the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate
2. Blunderbus Theatre is bringing an outdoor performance of Dotty the Dragon to Gadebridge Park at 11am on Saturday, August 13. Tickets are £5.50 each at toth.dacorum.gov.uk/families
3. Have a go at making animal pendants and ice age masks at the Natural History Museum in Tring. Visit www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/tring.html for dates, times and costs.
4. Spend a night camping under the stars with your favourite farmyard animals at Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary in Northchurch on Saturday, September 3. Visit twooaksponysanctuary.wix.com for more.
5. Feeling the heat? Cool off with a visit to Planet Ice at Jarman Park, or The Snow Centre on St Albans Hill. Visit www.planet-ice.co.uk/arena/Hemel_Hempstead or www.thesnowcentre.com for more.