THE first young people in County Durham trained to recognise the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse have graduated from the scheme.

Pupils at Elemore Hall School, in Pittington, and Bishop Barrington School, in Bishop Auckland, took part in the Young People’s Life Choices Programme.

The programme enables young people to play an ambassadorial role supporting peers and teaching staff throughout school.

It enables them to understand the impact of ‘life choices’ on individuals, families and communities, aiming to divert them away from a life of crime, anti-social behaviour and the harms of substance misuse.

In a ceremony yesterday, 12 Young Ambassadors from Elemore Hall delivered a showcase to their peers, teachers and parents, before being presented with graduation certificates and badges.

The awards were presented by Ellen Terry, Durham’s Young Police, Crime and Victim’s Commissioner and Inspector Rachel Stockdale of Durham police.

She said: “As a young person I know what issues and problems young people face.

"The impact that drugs and alcohol can have on young people, and their families can be huge, one decision can change everything.

"As young people we can find it hard to know where to go in times of trouble as we worry that we are going to get into more trouble by seeking support.

"Having peer Ambassadors within schools will help to break down this barrier.”

The Young People’s Life Choices programme was developed by George Charlton, an independent trainer and consultant, in partnership with Durham Agency Against Crime.

It gives youngsters an insight into the life and experiences of an individual who spent many years in the grips of addiction whilst also being impacted by significant mental health issues.

Mr Charlton said “The programme has been really well received by the students. Having lived with a personal addiction to drugs and alcohol and struggled with mental health problems for over a decade, I know what needs to be done.

"I can explain how making certain decisions impacted upon my life, my family and community. I try to be open honest and tell them how it really is. This programme enables young people to seek support from their respected peers.”