I attended an exhibition in the City Hall last week run by the PSNI. There were a lot of different issues that they wanted to get across to young people, and I certainly had my eyes open by a few things. There was a brilliant production put together by a drama company, Spanner In The Works, which I myself have previously been apart of. The production was about young people going to university and the different problems that can arise for them. It all started off so rosy for them, then the stress and parties started to take their toll.

One girl, who classed herself as an outsider and who was only at uni to prove her mother wrong, turned to drugs to sort out her problems. She was partying every night and failing every exam.

Another girl was bright and had big ambitions for her future, but the pain of her mother having cancer made her turn to drugs for the first time. She tried drugs once, and as soon as she did, she started fitting and ended up in hospital for weeks after and had to attend therapy to help her deal with the loss of her mother and her near death experience. She never returned to uni as she felt it would be a set back for her as the memories of that one night would always haunt her if she stayed.

The moral of the story was to show young people that although uni is for partying and socialising, it’s mainly to better yourself and to prove to everyone who ever said you couldn’t do something that you can.

It was also to encourage young people to stay away from drugs and get your education, to better your own life and to become who you want to be.

There were a few videos shown to us about safety on social networking pages which, before I had seen these videos, I would never have thought about. We were shown that a girl who didn’t have her profile private meant anyone could see her details and her photo’. She had been talking to a boy online for a few weeks, and then he started to stalk her. Through her profile, he could find out everything about her. He knew where she went to school, where she lived, the route she took to get home, and he started following her. Although he didn’t physically hurt her, emotionally and mentally he scarred her.

I had never really thought about the dangers of having people you don’t personally know on the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. Young people need to be sure that the people they’re talking to online, really are who they say they are.

Also present were different organisations that focus entirely on young people. One of the main ones was Challenge For Youth. An amazing organisation set up by truly wonderful people. I have done a lot of work with Challenge For Youth and they are 100 per cent dedicated to what they do. I’ve been involved in cross community summer camps run by the organisation which have always been a huge success.

I’ve also been involved in leadership programmes, which made you focus on yourself and who you are and what difference you can make. The workers make you feel welcome the minute you walk through the doors. They let you know that no matter what problems you have, there’s always someone to confide in, and that they will always be there to help and support you. Their laid back attitudes make you feel at ease the whole time. They can joke and mess about but they still always make young people see that they’re not how most people portray them to be. They let you know that you’re not a ‘hood’ no matter what anyone says, you’re someone who has a voice and who can make a huge difference to your own life and to the lives of others.

I would strongly advise young people to call into the Challenge For Youth centre as they’re always welcoming new young people to get involved and make a difference.