NCS is a 4-week program in the UK where students after finishing secondary to spend the summer on an adventure, meeting new friends and developing life skills. I missed this opportunity back when I finished secondary so I decided I’d try to live it a different way, by becoming a mentor.
So it turns out, I spent the summer with 2 groups of around 12 young people each, one of them each wave. I can only say one thing, it was crazy! Some days I felt like a teacher, an instructor, but on other days I felt like one of them. I was having the time of my life!
Phase 1: Adventure
So the program is divided into 3 phases. The 1st phase, we spent the week on the Isle of Wight on what was basically an Adventure campsite. The program was for the young people to do things they’ve probably never done before like High Ropes, Abseiling, and a huge 3G Swing. I wasn’t missing out on the fun though. I had a go at everything!
Jacob’s Ladder, Leap of Faith, and Zipwire (Left to Right)
One of my highlights this phase was when I challenged one of my team members on a race up Jacob’s Ladder. Each “step” hangs very loosely so it’s hard to keep balance, and the distance between each one gets higher the further up you go. We both managed to get 80% up through in around 20 seconds but it got to a point where I couldn’t go any higher. He showed me up as he continued past me, but the race ended up as a sweet helping each other to get up the last steps thing…. mostly him helping me up though.
They dubbed him BTEC Johnny Depp
The people on site were also some of the greatest I’ve met. It makes me wish I didn’t live so far from the Isle. They have the energy supply of a nuclear power plant. Seriously, I have no idea where they get all that energy. There isn’t a ‘regular’ moment with these guys. I was taking a morning walk around the site before anything was to start and I stumbled upon one of their staff meetings and the first thing I hear is “OK Guys… where’s the PS4 Controller?”.
As much fun as it all was though, I had some responsibilities. Being the mentor of a team where most of the guys don’t yet know each other, I had to establish the bonds. Many of the activities were team challenges and competitions against the other teams and for more than a few reasons, I knew I was not going to be losing to the other teams!
Oh by the way, I wasn’t the only mentor of the team. Each team had 2 mentors, and my partners in both teams were some of the perkiest people.
Both teams I had ended up having some real explosive chemistry and it felt like it only took a day or 2 before you’d have thought they’ve known each other for years. From then on, it was just a spur of unforgettable moments. One of the teams decided to name themselves TEAM ERIC. I had no input in this, they just started shouting it out everywhere, and being the narcissist I am, I loved every second of it.
Phase 2: Discovery
Phase 2 was at the University of Essex and it was a change of pace. The day was filled out with classroom sessions we had to deliver. I felt like a teacher at this point but I put into practice the styles of some of my most memorable teachers through the years and even ended up adopting the speech patterns of college Physics teacher. The point of this week was to teach life skills like budgeting, confidence, resilience, and business.
The highlights of this week were the evening activities. These were mostly team competitions like a Bin-Bag Fashion Show and the Essex Got Talent (more on that later). Other nights it was just chilling like with a Movies and Bingo night (I loved being a Bingo Master). One thing for sure is I love planning and organizing events like these, so I was having the time of my life.
Essex Got Talent is what most of the week built up though. Both waves it was just huge! Both waves, I decided my group were dancing (I was lucky to have some dancers in the groups). My second-wave team did a Just Dance mashup. I love Just Dance. I spent a whole 2 years mastering every song from Just Dance 2014 and 2015. I had to dance Britney Spear’s Toxic though. That was an experience.
My first-wave team on the other hand, they blew me away here. It started out as a basic choreography of Drake’s In my Feelings, then they decided they’d follow it up with a number of stuns from Gymnastics to Splits and even The Worm. We ended up winning that one, according to the Wave Leader who judged it, was hugely thanks to The Worm.
Phase 3: Social Action
This phase was all about Social Action. Each team would have to devise a project that would make a lasting difference in the community. This goes from doing fundraisers, volunteering at places, helping charities, etc. Big thing here is you REALLY have to get involved in the community if you want it to work.
I’ve done a range of things with both of my teams going from bake-sales, gardening, busking, and even putting up a stand where people pay to throw sponges at you. I have to say it wasn’t easy. From a leader’s point of view, it was real important to keep the momentum going and plan things perfectly. We only had two weeks and we don’t have time for even one setback or our project would be blown way off course.
I can’t say I was too involved though. This was their project and my role here was to help and support. This was on them and they both delivered great projects and shall I say, made a difference.
NCS was great fun and easily worth my summer. It’s a program run all around UK. If you’re at least 18 years old, have a free summer and want to step up as a leader, I’d highly recommend it. It’s great enough to take part in the program. It’s on another level to lead a team through program.
DISCLAIMER: The photos used in this post don’t include any of the young people in the waves I did. Photos here are of the mentors as well as friends who did NCS a couple years ago.