vInspired’s Eco Talent is a six month volunteering programme for 16 to 24 year olds, which gives them the opportunity to develop real world skills and experiences so they can succeed in the environmental sector. Project Coordinator Jenna Hannon, tells us about  the graduation of cohort three. 
The project is delivered in partnership with Barking and Dagenham College, Harrow Council and Ealing Council, and is one of 31 projects being delivered across the country as part of Our Bright Future – a social movement that supports young people to create change in their communities and local environment.
On 23 March 2018, we celebrated the huge achievement of our cohort three volunteers graduating from the programme. Taking place at the Shakespeare Globe in London with a lovely balcony view of the River Thames, we had our fingers crossed for good weather and we were not disappointed! It was a beautiful day for a celebration.
The occasion called for glad rags and smart suits, and once family and friends had taken their seat, Barking and Dagenham College kicked off the event in great style with Youth Forum member Jake and fellow volunteer Bradley introducing themselves and talking through their highlights of the programme. It was a delight to see so many photos from the last six months, and we were even treated to two videos documenting their amazing environmental social action projects at the college; Go Vegan; where the young volunteers handed out vegan food samples to students and educated them on the potential positive environmental impacts of a vegan diet, and The Park;  where the young volunteers planted a sensory garden route for students with disabilities to enjoy. After heaping praise on the group, each young person was presented with their graduation certificate and a warm handshake from vInspired CEO Jessica Taplin.
Next up Harrow Council introduced themselves, with each graduate talking about their time on the programme. The young volunteers had just recently finished renovating the outdoor space in a local children’s centre and were excited to share their photographs of before and after their hard work. It was also a delight to be joined by cohort two Eco-Talent graduate Daryl, who has been supporting delivery of the programme, and Youth Volunteering and Social Action Development Manager, Ali Abdu, talking of the great prospects for their volunteers. Charlotte in particular, with her infectious smile and enthusiasm, is already in talks with Ali to continue her great work at the youth centre, having had a huge impact on the other young people who attend. She also got a big hug from vInspired trustee, Joan Watson, who presented each student with their graduation certificate.
Closing the event was Ealing Council, who had each prepared their own story of why they joined the programme and the journey they had been on. I think it was fair to say that each story was incredibly moving, with many saying that they were not keen to start the programme, but now reflected on how rewarding it was and had now set the wheels in motion for positive next steps. Tahiri spoke openly of how she thought that gardening and volunteering was not ‘for her’ but she got stuck into creating a medieval garden patch in Gunnersbury Park for her social action project and thoroughly enjoyed it; proving to herself that she could cope outside of her comfort zone. Tara also spoke of how she had taken on a leadership role, delivering an upcycling session at a local primary school which utilised her artistic talents and creativity, and has made her think about a future career in youth work. We were grateful to have Anna Heathcote from Our Bright Future in attendance, who kindly presented each volunteer from Ealing Council with their graduation certificate.
Finally, the Ealing graduates took over Spotify to DJ for the rest of the event, whilst we all enjoyed some mocktails and a canapé or two! We are so proud of our cohort three graduates and all that they have achieved, as well at the huge impact that their environmental social action projects have had and will continue to have on the wider community. We wish them all every success for their future.
Although our cohort three have now graduated, we look forward to welcoming a new and final cohort of young people for vInspired Eco-Talent which starts again in June. It is a full-time volunteering programme, which includes a placement, an environmental qualification, and the opportunity to lead an environmental social action project in the community. We can’t wait to get back out there volunteering and hope our new volunteers will have just as much fun!
Find out more about vInspired Eco-Talent here.