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Durham University

Van Mildert College

Young Persons' Project (YPP)

The Young Persons’ Project has been successfully run at Van Mildert College since 2002. Volunteers work closely with Year 10 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds at Joseph Swan, Gateshead and St Hild’s CofE in Hartlepool. The aim of YPP is to raise the aspirations of the children on the project, primarily through confidence building exercises which focus on public speaking, creativity, leadership and teamwork.

As a project, teams visit each school six times during the Easter term. These school sessions had often been overlooked in terms of overall importance to the project but were recently reviewed and specifically developed to prepare the pupils for the residential at Mildert. The school sessions are skills-based and focus on creativity, leadership and teamwork to build confidence.

The residential is undoubtedly the most crucial part in achieving the project’s aims. Thirty pupils from each school are selected by their teachers to attend on account of their suitableness to the project. In general terms, the pupils that come to us are often the brightest in their year, nevertheless, many of them lack the confidence or guidance to realise their intelligence and positive qualities. The residential is designed with the aim of reversing this trend, inspiring the pupils, helping them to realise their potential and look to the future with a positive and proactive attitude. The residential lasts for four days and each is full of activities, with highlights including a Dragons Den day, a Murder Mystery Night, a trip to Beamish Wild outdoor activity centre, a formal dinner and a silent disco.

The pupils gain so much from their time on the project and we feel that YPP has the potential to be a life-changing experience. A 2017 review of the project carried out by the volunteers looked at the impact on the participants. The results were extremely positive, for example, 46 out of 51 participants felt they had become a ‘proud leader’ after completing the residential, and 50 out of 51 felt they’d improved their teamwork skills.

In terms of student participation, YPP is easily the most popular project at Van Mildert. This year, nearly eighty pupils interviewed to be a part of a team of thirty which includes six students who form the executive committee charged with liaising with the two schools, running school sessions, organising the residential, managing finances and fundraising. Volunteers are given huge amounts of responsibility and are able to develop key leadership and teamwork skills whilst also making incredibly strong bonds with pupils from different years and different backgrounds. There are very few Mildert students who following their first year on YPP do not look to do it again the following year and nearly all would rate it as one of, if not the best, thing that they get involved with at University.

The immediate and ongoing future of the College's Young Persons Project (YPP) has been secured

Van Mildert College are pleased to be able to share the news that thanks to the generosity of an alumnus of Durham University, the immediate and ongoing future of the College's Young Persons Project (YPP) has been secured. Van Mildert and its student community are well known for leading innovative outreach projects, assisting those less fortunate in and around the Durham area while broadening the life experiences of those Van Mildert students who are involved. YPP is a perfect example of this kind of outreach in action, providing opportunities for young people from schools in less-privileged areas of the North East to experience and aspire to a continuing education at an institution like Durham University. Thanks to this gift, which will be used to underwrite up to 50% of the cost of hosting the project, for the next ten years or more, the ongoing future of this programme now has a new sense of security.

Principal, Prof. David Harper
23 January 2014
“Ever since my first day with YPP, I could truly feel the extraordinary impact the project would have on the students, but also on myself. It is such an inspiration to work with so many talented young people and an honour to see them individually blossom, coming closer to achieving their incredible aspirations ”
Rhianna Eden, former YPP Director