By Tony Dewhurst
The inaugural Football League Trust National Citizen Service Graduation ceremony rocked Wembley Arena to its foundations.
The London venue has hosted X Factor, Elton John and Kylie Minogue, but the hundreds of new graduates from AFC Bournemouth, Barnsley, Charlton Athletic, Leyton Orient, Milton Keynes Dons, Plymouth Argyle, Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday were the new stage stars, hosted by Manish Bhasin, BBC presenter of The Football League Show.
The National Citizen Service brings together 16-year-olds from different backgrounds in a programme of challenge and learning, enabling them to develop the confidence they need to become more involved with their communities and to become more responsible citizens.
And the teenagers showcased their incredible work at the glittering awards ceremony ahead of England's victory over Wales at Wembley, where they were special guests.
This summer they had joined thousands of others - engaged in social action projects across England involved in the government initiative.
In Yorkshire, youngsters from Barnsley staged a Paralympic Sports Day for disabled children, and in London the National Citizen Service volunteers at Leyton Orient took the residents from an old people's home in Leytonstone on a day trip to Southend.
In the West Country, the teenagers kept their parks and beaches tidy and held a Family Fun Day, while at Sheffield Wednesday one NCS group set up community football sessions to keep local kids off the streets during the holidays.
Citizen Service graduate Lewis Bowen, from Plymouth, said: "The National Citizen Service scheme was the best experience of my life - I'll never forget it.
"Before, I had been in trouble with the Police - but if there's nothing else to do, what do they expect?
"But the two weeks of outdoor activities meant that I always had things to do and because of that I've been out of trouble all summer.
"I want to do an apprenticeship in painting and decorating and NCS has helped me with that.
"For my social action project, I had to paint and decorate a new classroom. It has taught me a valuable skill. I've met people that I never thought I'd get on with, and I couldn't have done that without the NCS."
Another proud graduate, Elizabeth Driver from Rotherham United, said: "The whole experience was amazing, I learned new skills and my confidence grew as each day passed."
MP Tim Loughton, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, praised the 'incredible' work done by the graduates and thanked The Football League Trust for their support.
'I visited a few of the projects over the summer and I was blown away by the enthusiasm of everyone, so hats off to The Football League Trust," he said.
"These graduates created a piece of history - it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of them.
"With all the negative stuff going on this summer, the graduates have shown that these young people are energetic and creative."
He added: "The National Citizen Service is incredibly important because it is helping to give thousands of young people the confidence, skills and knowledge they need to do just that, and to create a fantastic future for themselves."
Mr Loughton said the scheme is close to Prime Minister David Cameron's heart, with the aim of the service - to get young people helping others.
"David Cameron is passionate about The National Citizen Service, and is rightly proud of these graduates and what they've achieved," added Mr Loughton.
12 organizations - including The Football League Trust - have been chosen to run this year's citizen service pilots project.
Dame Julia Cleverdon, Vice President of Business in the Community and Football League Trust partner, said: "I attended the ceremony and it was a truly amazing and inspiring event.
"The youngsters were so pleased and proud - they were 10 feet taller by the time they came off stage."
Football League Trust National Project Manager Mike Evans said: "The National Citizen Service has shown once again that young people are inspired to do amazing things, particularly when challenged and outside of their comfort zone.
"It has been an honour for The Football League Trust to be selected by the Cabinet Office for this NCS pilot, and we would like to thank Tim Loughton for his support and input at the graduation ceremony.
"I don't think that anybody who attended the ceremony, particularly the 560 young people involved, will ever forget the day."