By Tony Dewhurst
The Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, has delivered a ringing endorsement of The Football League Trust's delivery of National Citizen Service, saying that the nationwide scheme is giving youngsters an opportunity to do something really special with their lives.
Launched last year, NCS gives 16 and 17-year-olds the chance to learn new skills and get involved with their communities.
Nearly 30,000 teenagers participated this summer and Mr Hurd, who addressed many of them at The Football League Trust National Citizen Service Graduation Ceremony in London, said: "Our youngsters are the future of this country - we should get behind them, believe in them and celebrate their achievements.
"I'm a father of five and I get terribly frustrated about the negative stereotypes of young people we hear about.
"But through The National Citizen Service we are giving them opportunities to connect with society and to do something really good and to make a big difference.
"When you do that, then you light a spark in a young person and that's what we should be wanting as a country, to get behind these fantastic teenagers and help them in any way we can."
This year, The Football League Trust worked with 15 of their community trusts to deliver The National Citizen Service within their local communities.
And Mr Hurd reserved special thanks for The Football League Trust, adding: "We are absolutely delighted by the support we are receiving from The Football League Trust.
"They've done an excellent job in keeping the kids motivated and engaged - thousands of youngsters have enjoyed a fantastically positive experience.
"Perhaps many of them hadn't thought about joining The National Citizen Service, but if you present them with the right opportunity to do something really positive, whether that's raising money for a local charity or helping out at an old people's home, they grab the challenge with both hands and that's what thousands of them have done."
Mr Hurd said that the Government hoped to make the National Citizen Service available to every 16-year-old in the country, and added: "We are very proud of what it has achieved and so far we couldn't be more pleased."
The National Citizen Service was the brainchild of Prime Minister David Cameron, who retains a particularly close interest in the scheme's development.
"It really is a project close to David Cameron's heart," said Mr Hurd.
"The National Citizen Service has shown it brings together kids from different backgrounds, pushing them through a common experience that stretches and challenges them.
"Our research tells us that it's incredibly popular with young people.
"95 per cent of them would recommend it to their friends and we also know that it's helping them develop the skills and confidence that are going to be valued by employers in the future, while at the same time doing positive things in their communities.
"The feedback we've had from parents and teachers is terrific."
Speaking at the graduation event, Mike Evans, General Manager of The Football League Trust, said: "Today has been unbelievable. We had 1,000 young people who were prepared to give up their summer holiday and take part in our NCS programme - learning new skills, making new friends and putting something back into their communities.
"I am not sure if I would have committed to that as a 16-year-old, but through our network of football club charities, 1,000 young people did and nearly all of them are here in London to celebrate their achievement. I am proud of them all."
Arrianne White, an NCS volunteer with Norwich City's Community Foundation and who hopes to study child care at college, said: "It's motivated me to get out of bed in the morning.
"Normally teenagers are seen as really bad people - we're not all like that.
"I hope doing this will enhance my CV and give me a better chance of getting a job in the future. There are a lot of people leaving school and looking for work."