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Paula

Service user

'I can't thank the staff enough for the way they have changed my life.'

To protect identities, images are not specific to the stories but are of others involved with Catch22.

An unclear future

Before National Citizen Service (NCS), I was really unsure of my next steps in life. Already attending sixth form, I was studying subjects simply because I enjoyed them. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career. All of my friends had their lives mapped out, knowing exactly what universities they were going to and what courses they were going to study. I was clueless.

When career day came around at sixth form, my best friend and I had decided that we didn’t want to go to anything that involved university. I didn’t really like sixth form so I was pretty sure university wasn’t for me. When the Catch22 NCS recruitment team spoke to us, NCS was never something I would have thought of doing despite being very sporty. I had never been to a youth club or encountered Youth Workers. However, the staff had us hooked.

Getting closer to the start, I was a little nervous about what I had signed up for. Attending warm-up activities changed this. The Catch22 staff were amazing at getting us to bond as a team. Before we had even gone away, we were all getting on almost like a little family.

Learning new skills, identifying passions

Carrying out NCS was an experience I will never forget. It was amazing. All my concerns at home were gone. I was able to enjoy myself with new friends, learning new skills along the way which would prove very vital for my CV. Making a difference to my community was so rewarding. If I was able to do the programme again, I would and I wouldn’t change a thing!

We spent time learning about the skills we had and the jobs we might like or be suited to. My leaders pointed out my skills and passions, and told me they thought I had the potential to make it as a successful Youth Worker. I had never wanted to work with young people. My leader said to me, ‘If you never do anything for anyone in your life, please do this. Go to a youth centre and volunteer just as a one off. We will take everything from there’. I was really unsure about this. I had no idea how to engage with young people. But my leaders were right.

Discovering a positive career path

Volunteering was the step that changed my life, all thanks to my amazing cohort leaders. I went from volunteering as a one-off to spending every Friday night at the youth centre – and I loved it. After six or seven months of doing this, a job came up. I jumped at the chance.

I realised during my interview how much NCS had impacted me – not only by encouraging me to enter this field of work, but the skills I had learnt. Nearly all of my answers in my interview started with ‘When I did NCS…’

I got the job. They couldn’t believe my age and the skills I had – many of them stemmed from my NCS experience. It moulded me as a person and I am still that person today.

Now a qualified Youth Worker at that company, I have also been part of the NCS team and I am now carrying out training to work with young people in foster care with disabilities. I can’t thank the staff enough for the way they, and the programme, have changed my life. It is simply amazing and I would recommend it to anyone!