On 19 May 2017, a group of employee volunteers from Rushmoor Borough Council, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Farnborough International joined 56 student delegates from 9 local schools at The Sixth Form College Farnborough.
The focus of the one day event was ‘Community Engagement’ and how these young leaders might influence their fellow students to become a pro-active part of, and not just be in, their communities. The conference, hosted by the College’s Director of Community Engagement & Employability, Christine Eustace, welcomed eminent guest speakers including Rob Young from NUS UK, Pat Salmon from National Citizenship Scheme (NCS), Elan Goldsmith from The Community Matters Partnership Project (CMPP), Barnabas Balint, winner of CMPP’s Volunteer of the Year Award 2016 and Tracy Clement from local charity Creating Futures.
The inaugural conference debated key issues in the area, and how individuals can work together to make a lasting impact in their local area.
Simon Jarvis, Principal of The Sixth Form College Farnborough opened the conference saying: “Thank you all for attending this wonderful day. Being a proactive part of our communities is vital and I hope that by the end of today, you will be leaving with ideas to help improve, not only your schools, but your local areas too.”
Rob Young from NUS England spoke about Community Engagement and what it means to be an involved member of society. From politics, to volunteering and the University lifestyle, Rob covered a range of topics that are affecting and will affect young people.
Pat Salmon from NCS discussed this Government led, innovative skills-development scheme and how students can get involved. A series of short videos from previous NCS volunteers helped to highlight the difference a proactive community can make and the lasting difference this can have in an area. Perhaps, the most moving thing to be highlighted throughout Pat’s speech, was the benefit to the volunteer; “indeed, accomplishing a task of such calibre is undeniably beneficial to young people’s wellbeing, skills and character”.
Ex-student Barnabas Balint emphasized the need for more support locally, supporting charities such as The Lisa May Foundation, CMPP, Creating Futures and Parity for Disability, suggesting that, “the greatest impact is often made at a small, local level”.
Tracy Yates, MD of Creating Futures, discussed ‘why is community engagement important?’. Tracy shared some of her experiences of working with young people with complex and often serious needs showed the exact benefits of community engagement. Tracy covered how being an enthusiastic member of the community can impact the lives of those living in it, emphasising “always believe that the difference you can make at your level will have a significant impact”.
Jenna Grant, Community Engagement Coordinator at The Sixth Form College Farnborough, said: “It was a great opportunity to speak to such a large range of students from local schools. I hope everything we discussed will help to make a shift towards a holistic approach of working together to build a stronger, more stable and friendlier community. Thank you to those students and speakers who kindly gave up their time to come together to action inspiring community engagement”
Delegates obviously enjoyed what, for many, was the first step in their school/college leadership capacities, with 98% rating the conference excellent or good. Students were left feeling empowered to make a difference and raise awareness for positive community engagement.