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The effects of social action on young people

The effects of social action on young people

Thank you to Harrogate College for sharing this article.  

During Volunteers’ Week we received a warm welcome at the college and were invited to talk with students about the benefits of volunteering and the range of roles there are to choose from in our area.  
It was lovely to meet student Niamh (pictured) who loved volunteering with Ripon Museums and the Wednesday Welcome Centre, where she had been able to meet lots of new people, gain new skills and grow in confidence. The experience also helped Niamh to get a part time job. Our Volunteering City of Ripon Project  is now focussing on supporting increased activity to recruit 14 to 18 year olds to help out in their community.   


When we talk of community, it’s not just our neighbours, family and friends that influence us; communities exist everywhere and at many levels. They may take the form of a physical community, such as that of a school, college or sports team, or a cultural grouping based on individual characteristics such as race, ideology or sexuality. 

Psychologists have found that environmental factors such as nutrition, attachment to parents, adverse experiences and quality of education can all greatly impact on young people’s development, behaviour and mental health. One study even found that in the UK, 1 in 3 diagnosed mental health conditions are directly related to adverse experiences during an individual's childhood.

It’s therefore not surprising that young people who are part of positive and supportive communities are more likely to experience positive development and sustained wellbeing. 

But the question remains: what can we do for our young people who have become disenfranchised by their communities, or have never had the opportunity to access them? 

How youth social action can lend a hand

Social action projects serve a dual purpose. Not only do young people serve the community around them by providing a service, they also engage young people to get together and combat the issues that directly affect them. The latest National Youth Social Action survey shows that, as well as increased emotional wellbeing, young people taking part in social action also experience stronger personal networks. 

Building social action into the curriculum

At Harrogate College, students are encouraged to engage with their local community and look for opportunities to introduce volunteering into their learning experience. 

Last month, as part of National Tree Week, eight joinery students helped Ripon City Council to plant 130 trees in order to create new habitats and store carbon. The project was developed to inspire young people to get outdoors and learn more about sustainability. The students who took part commented on how they enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the project and how they felt they were making a difference for everyone.

Charities also play an important role in supporting young people, and connecting them with communities that help them to process their experiences. Sport and Fitness students, Louise and Miles, recently volunteered their time to collect donations and run a tombola in college, to raise money for local charity, New Beginnings

Louise said, “To me, volunteering means people helping not because you have to, but because you want to.

“I would encourage young people to volunteer because it’s important to help those less fortunate than ourselves, it’s about giving time to help others have a better life, even if it’s something small.”

The college is also proud of its many students that have pursued volunteering opportunities outside of learning hours, and who are using it as an opportunity to work on their own development. Abi, a T Level Childcare student, volunteers weekly at her local Rainbows group and says her work with the young children has shown her the importance of community groups.

“I volunteer as I love seeing the children’s minds learn and how much they grow up from when they start at age 3/4 to when they join Brownies at 7.
“Rainbows help girls become more confident and learn more things outside of school - from badges in wildlife to creativity. It’s great to see them make friends and develop as young people.”

It takes a village to raise a child, a young person and a healthy adult - so we should be doing all we can to ensure our young ones are in touch with it. By allowing young people to have a hand in building up the communities they are part of, we can ensure they continue to have a positive impact for generations to come.

To find out more about how young people are affected by their communities and why youth work and volunteering is so important, visit the websites below: