TEARS welled in the eyes of families, friends and youth leaders as 14 young people completed their passing out parade for the first-ever Prince’s Trust Fenland Team programme.
The participants – all aged between 17 and 25 and from Fenland – completed a perfect fire drill at Wisbech Fire Station before taking to the microphone to tell the audience of nearly 200 people about their 12-week journey on the course.
This is the first time blue light services had come together in Cambridgeshire to deliver the programme.
It is run by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, with partners Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and The College of West Anglia.
The Prince’s Trust Team programme is a 12-week personal development course which aims to increase confidence, motivation and skills and enable young people to gain employment, move into education or undertake training or an apprenticeship.
Twice a week the participants engaged with firefighters at Wisbech in drills and development exercises, which culminated in them performing an intricately planned drill at their passing out parade.
Wisbech’s Watch Commander John Chelton said: “When they first arrived, we were a bit worried. They all have their own personal issues and we didn’t know how we as a fire service would be able to help them.
“Seeing them overcome personal fears and demons and develop into these wonderful people is so rewarding. It really has been an incredible journey and we’re honoured to have been part of it.”
At the final presentation the young people told heart-wrenching stories of the hand life had dealt them.
Through The Prince’s Trust Team programme they have learned more about themselves, changed their behaviours and harnessed their skills to move forward with their lives and careers.
One of the participants, Aston Gibb, 20, now has a job working in a supermarket. He said: “Before I came on this course, I thought my life had come to an end. I thought there was no hope of me sorting myself out.
“I have now realised that just being myself will make me more of a man than any money, clothes or rude boy image could ever do.
“Thank you to all of those who made this journey possible and who never threw in the towel on me.”
Eighteen-year-old Sophie Freeman talked about how the group of 14 had become a tight-knit group of friends.
She said: “This course has been life-changing. Before the course I was abrupt and in a complete muddle. I was a shell of a person.
“The main thing I’ve learned is to believe – not just in myself, but in others as well.
“My next steps are scary but I know I’ll get there. I’m back to college in September and then fingers crossed off to university.
“I’m starting to move forward in my life and I’m finally becoming the person I want to be.”
The young people who took part were: Dale Brightly, 20, of Wisbech; Ben Carlile, 19, of March; Alice Cheeshman, 21, of Wisbech; Richard Crow, 23, of Upwell; Deborah Hatt, 21, of Benwick; Nython Fox, 18, of Wisbech; Sophie Freeman, 18, of Wisbech; Aston Gibb, 20, of March; Abbie Mawby, 20, of Doddington; Melissa Plumb, 19, Wisbech; Tim Page, 24, Wisbech; Trixie Swiderek, 17, of Wisbech; Jeanette Ginkler, 25, of March and Stuart Towers, 19, of Wisbech.