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Frankie Fallowes, The Challenge’s new communications manager, caught up with Mitchell Goldie, a former NCS participant who at 19-years-old has just become one of the country’s youngest councillors.

Cllr Goldie, from Chingford, won a seat in Waltham Forest’s Endlebury ward in the May elections. When he was 16 he took part in The Challenge’s National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in Waltham Forest and now credits it with being the springboard he needed to becoming the voice of his community.

In my first week at The Challenge I gave Cllr Goldie a call to find out more about his experience on the programme, and how the confidence and skills he gained in public speaking and understanding other people’s viewpoints helped him to achieve his goal of becoming a councillor.

“Taking part in NCS was brilliant, I would definitely recommend it!” Cllr Goldie exclaims animatedly when we speak over the phone. “It really is an affordable way to get involved in fantastic activities during the summer holidays, and meet new people from different backgrounds and upbringings.”

He admits to me that it was “a bit of a culture shock” but agreed that was no bad thing as he learnt a lot about both himself and other people. “It brought me out of my own bubble and into the real world,” he says.

When I ask Cllr Goldie what his personal highlight was, he tells me he’s especially grateful for the support he received with public speaking as it improved both his skills and confidence. Reflecting on how he was treated by NCS staff, he says, “We were all seen as individuals and were encouraged to share our views without judgement. It really helped me to be out and proud with my ideas.”

Although Cllr Goldie says taking part in the programme didn’t directly influence his decision to become a councillor, he’s clear that it helped him prepare for the role by encouraging him to speak on a public platform, as well as listening to and understanding others.

“I have always been quite confident in my own opinions,” he explains, “but the programme provided a great platform for me to hear from other people, particularly around political issues such as Brexit. NCS was a great springboard for me to be able to represent not just myself, but the communities in which I work, even if we have differing views.”

Seeing the country, and London especially, growing increasingly diverse Cllr Goldie believes bringing people together is more important than ever. “With people not even living that far from each other leading very different lives, programmes like NCS are crucial for encouraging social integration,” he says.

As an NCS graduate who’s gone on to become an inspiring community leader, Cllr Goldie has been invited back as a pitch advisor for the programme this summer. The participants will present a social action project that they’ve designed during the programme to him and the rest of the panel, who’ll then decide how much funding it deserves to receive. “I’m buzzing to be back with NCS again and to meet new young people taking part,” he says excitedly.

Feeling his enthusiasm for NCS crackle through the phone line, I ask him why he’s so keen to get back involved in the programme.

“I come from a working class family in a deprived area and now, as well being a councillor, I also work full-time in politics at Westminster,” he tells me. “I want to share my motivation with new NCS participants and instil in them the will to never give up. It’s really important for me to show other young people that whatever your background is you can be successful.”

And with that I say goodbye to Cllr Goldie. Having just joined The Challenge I’ve read a lot about our vision of creating a more integrated society and the programmes we run to support it but I haven’t yet had much contact with anyone who’s taken part. Hearing about Cllr Goldie’s affection for NCS and the real difference it’s made to his life and career is both encouraging and inspiring. Bring on the summer…

Visit NCS The Challenge to get involved.