PCN director Biddy Collyer said: “Anyone who saw the BBC2 programme last year must have been inspired by the enthusiasm and compassion of the two Christian youth workers who pioneered the Romance Academy. said: “Anyone who saw the BBC2 programme last year must have been inspired by the enthusiasm and compassion of the two Christian youth workers who pioneered the Romance Academy.
“Basically, they took a group of 12 young people and encouraged them and built up their self-esteem while they looked at issues of what constitutes a good relationship. They were encouraged to abstain from sex for the five months while they were on the Academy,” said Biddy.
“We believe it is an exciting opportunity to positively influence the lives of young people by challenging them to question the messages that society throws at them and helping them realise their value and worth.”
PCN are setting up a similar Romance Academy for a dozen Norwich youngsters starting with an open evening on March 20, 6.30pm, at the Fishergate Centre in the city centre for all those interested.
The plan follows a visit from one of the pioneers of the original TV Romance Academy, Rachel Gardner, who was in Norwich in November.
Course organiser Melissa Snell, from PCN, said: “I was so inspired by what they were doing in the TV programme that I wondered whether we could do something similar in Norwich “
Two Christian youth workers, Sarah Woodger and David Lanchester, will run the 15-week Academy for twelve 14-16 year olds (6 boys and 6 girls. It will include a weekly two-hour session on topics including building and sustaining healthy relationships, influences on behaviour, contraception and sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy and choices, drugs and alcohol and self-image.
The group will run on Tuesdays 6.30-8.30pm starting on March 27. It will also include social events and a residential weekend away. There will be no cost attached to these events.
The young people will come from the Norwich area and their parents/carers must agree to them participating.
“There will also be a graduation ceremony at the end to which the young people can invite their friends and family,” said Melissa.
“We are looking for as diverse a group of young people as possible to take part in terms of faith, social, economic and ethnic backgrounds,” said Melissa. “From previous academies in other parts of the country it has been found that attending Romance Academy can affect a young person’s relationship with their parents in a positive way and also that they positively influence their friends, so we hope the academy will indirectly serve a wider community of people than just the dozen involved.”
PCN will work with initially with YMCA Norfolk, The Matthew Project, Norwich Youth For Christ and church youth groups to find young people to get involved in the pilot course.
“Research has shown that with good self-esteem, a young person is more likely to delay having sex and less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour when they do become sexually active thus reducing the risk of unplanned teenage pregnancy and STIs and their associated cost,” said Melissa.
“There is also the reduction in regret and emotional hurt that can often go with teenage sex as well as the positive emotional benefits of delaying sex. They will influence young people in the choices they make and hopefully impact other areas of their lives.”
If you are interested or would like to find out more ring 01603 616580 or go to the information evening on Tuesday March 20, 6.30pm at the Fishergate Centre, Fishergate, Norwich, NR3 1SE. Parents, carers or youth workers are welcome to attend the information evening with a young person.
Pictured above is Rachel Gardner with Dan Burke from BBC2's Romance Academy.