Jess McQueen is 16 years old and is currently study at Heaton Manor Sixth Form in Heaton. She signed up for the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme, run by Newcastle United Foundation, aimed at encouraging sixth formers to take on new challenges and learn new skills. Jess has written about her experience of the first stage of the programme, a group trip to Allendale for team building.

"I first heard about NCS when they came into assembly in year 11, it sounded lots of fun so when they visited again when I was in year 12 I signed up."

"I choose to sign up because it sounded like a challenge and a great opportunity for the holidays, also friends from the year above which were involved with previous programmes really convinced me to go with all the fun stories and exiting memories they shared with me from their trip.

"I remember the first time I met the people in my group, it was during the meet and greet part of phase one. At first I was rather nervous but quickly, with the welcome from the enthusiastic leaders, I was soon deep in conversation getting to know everyone.

"For me I was nervous about going away for the weekend with people I didn't know, in a new area, and doing activities I hadn't done before. I did have one close best friend on the course that I go to sixth form with and have grown up with which was very comforting.

"I found myself making friends straight away, I quickly developed a strong friendship with the two girls I was sharing a room with. They were both lovely and so easy to talk to and get along with, being of a similar age. We were from the same area so I found we had a lot in common and never ran out of conversation. "

"We did many activities during our stay my personal favourite the ghyll scrambling (waterfall jumping), it was an exhilarating challenge that left my heart racing but full of achievement. I felt very proud when we looked back at the height of the jump and I was able to say I had pushed myself and done that, especially when at points beforehand I had doubted myself, but with the support of my team and the coaches it almost felt easy.

"We did many other activities, which all followed the theme of teamwork and challenging yourself, including tree climbing, raft building, canoeing, a night line, fire starting, bridge building, rescue missions and archery. Then, on the last day we had a catapult competition between smaller teams which gave everyone an incentive to get involved and was a lovely way to finish the week.

"As a group we were fortunate enough to have very motivated, enthusiastic and encouraging coaches, I felt comfortable around them straight away. They didn't just watch over us, they experienced everything with us taking part in the activities, supporting all of us and encouraging us to carry on and overcome our fears.

"One of my favourite things not just about the trip but the whole programme, is I have now developed great friendships with people who also took park. We actually went to the park and played basketball after the programme one night and have planned to go for a meal as a group at the weekend.

"I've learnt lots over the weekend, not just about the others, but I feel like I know myself more now, it helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses and how I can use them beneficially. The programme has definitely built my confidence and given me an insight into how easy it can be to establish friendships.

"I would say that I have learnt lots of new skills throughout the programme many of them which will prove to be useful and transferable to other important aspects of my life, like sixth form and work. These include leadership, time keeping and a key one, communication. I also learnt how to include everyone in the group, and how important it is to make sure that I am actively taking part.

"Take me for example, I've made lots of new friends, the two girls Katy and Sadia which I briefly mentioned previously sharing a room with, they don't go to the same school nor are in the same year. I had never met them before the programme yet we left being best mates. They are fantastic, we have so much in common and I would definitely say we will keep in touch.

"There was also Alex and Moses, again so easy to get along with, we even met and got the Metro to the programme each day. In fact I got along with and spoke to everyone in my group. The feeling of developing friendships like that is truly heart warming, knowing that there is a wider world than the walls of your home and school.

"I would definitely encourage anyone considering the programme to go for it, it truly is a great opportunity and experience which will leave you with memories that make you smile and laugh.

"Even if you're nervous, do it. That's what the whole programme is about -overcoming fears, challenging yourself and being successful. I guarantee you will leave the programme being very proud with a strong sense of achievement."