THIS summer around 300 young people from York will be taking part in a challenge of their lives with the National Citizens Service.

In total, more than 1,200 16 year olds from our region have signed up for the four-week NCS programme.

For the first week, they will spend five days away from home at an outward bounds activity camp – with many of the young adults heading for sites in France. Two more groups will live in eco pods in the Scottish Borders, while one lot will end up under canvas in the woods in South Yorkshire.

Climbing, watersports, and high-ropes will be just some of the physical tasks they will face – with the aim of getting teens to face their fears and move out of their comfort zones for a few days.

In the second week, they all move into university accommodation for five days (yes, they come home at weekends to have their washing done!), and tackle a series of workshops on everything from self defence to confidence-building.

In the final two weeks, they are back at home, but working in teams on community projects.

During the first two weeks, all board and lodging is paid for – including trips to restaurants. Each student only pays £50 towards their place (which is estimated to cost more than £1,500 per teenager).

So who foots the bill?

We do!

Yes, the scheme is government funded. It was set up in 2011 under David Cameron's helm and was part of his "Big Society" vision. The aim was to create a modern day national service for teens.

NCS has had its critics over the years, including an influential committee of MPs which last year called on the government to carry out a fundamental review before spending any money on the programme. The committee honed in on the NCS's lack of evidence of long-term impact, lack of transparency, high participation targets, the cost per place, and the lack of progress on recovering money paid out for places that were not filled.

None of those things are likely to be on the minds of the teens and parents in the latest cohort gearing up for their four-week NCS adventure – which for some start as soon as the GCSEs finish at the end of June.

My daughter is just one of them, and already her mind is turning to what it might be like and what she might get out of it. She knows one other girl from her school who is going on the same date as she is (you are encouraged to sign up with a mate, but they the real aim, they say, is to meet new people and develop lasting friendships).

And she's imagining what it might be like staying in a uni dorm, sharing a corridor with strangers, wondering if she will fit in, make friends, have enough to do. And whether she should take her guitar.

Absolutely, I answered. And my best advice: be yourself, and trust in that. Be friendly, talk to people, listen, take part – try to have fun.

It's a scary big step into the outside world, and like many other parents across York, I am proud of her for signing up.

At a welcome meeting for parents this week, NCS organisers said they were still looking for social causes and community projects in the York area for the teenagers to help with over summer.

So if you have a project that could do with some extra hands in July and August, why not call on the NCS teens for help?

Email me at The Press and I will put you in touch with local organisers: