Northumberland children graduate from ‘university’

Dozens of young people ‘graduated’ from their university at a special ceremony.

Thursday, 25th April 2019, 7:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th April 2019, 7:14 pm
Graduates at the Childrens University ceremony. Picture by Paul Lowder.

Bedlington-based charity Leading Link arranged the event as part of the Children’s University.

More than 300 people packed out The Phoenix Theatre in Blyth to watch more than 120 young people graduate with 30-plus hours of community activity and engagement over the last year.

Guest speaker Darren Tait at the Children's University graduation ceremony.

The Children’s University encourages children to try new experiences, develop interests and gain skills out of school hours.

They collect stamps from local, regional and national validated providers or attend workshops provided by Leading Link, then attend a ‘graduation’ in full gown attire and celebrate their achievement.

Guest speaker for the event was Darren Tait.

Darren started life on the wrong path, constantly getting into trouble, and ended up as a forklift driver.

At 21, he cycled past a ballet class and stopped to watch the dancers. After being inspired by their dedication, he practiced steps at home until he built up the courage to sign up to a ballet class.

His career then took him to Cirque de Soleil, a stunt man in various movies and a dance soloist in successful productions across the world.

He spoke to the children about how it is important to get out there and try new things, then when you have found your dream, keep at it.

One graduate had more than 1,300 hours of community engagement, while 18-year-old John Strasenburgh received the top honorary award for Most Inspiring Leader, with more than 1,200 hours and an exemplary role model for other young people.

Helen O’Donnell, chief executive of the Children’s University Trust, said: “We know Children’s University has a positive impact on young people’s aspirations and that those participating in the scheme are also more likely to report higher levels of communication, self-confidence, resilience and happiness, as well as wanting to know more about pathways towards professions.

“The work of Northumberland Children’s University is now more pertinent than ever and its successes are those we’re keen to replicate all over the country.”

Lyn Horton, chief executive of Leading Link, said: “I’m so proud of our young people and all of the businesses and organisations that have helped to make The Children’s University graduation a success once again.”

As a sponsor of the Children’s University in Blyth, Draeger Safety UK was delighted to present a number of trophies.

The winners were:

Amazing Resilience: Brooke Watson

Great Inspiration: Taylor Atkinson

Young Community Champion: Liam Grieves

Great Resilience: Lilah McNaughton

Young Achiever: Bethan Lillico

Inspirational Leader: John Strasenburg