A teen enjoyed the experience of a lifetime after winning a trip to New York City.
Rhys Long took a trip to the Big Apple with a team from the Wigan Youth Zone (WYZ), after coming top of an engineering competition organised by the Blair Project.
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The 19-year-old from Higher Folds led a small team representing the youth zone in the ProtoGP Schools Kart Challenge.
WYZ emerged victorious in the task, which teaches youngsters how to design, manufacture and build their own race karts using 3D printers and conduct virtual reality testing.
And so Rhys, along with the youth zone’s mentoring coordinator Mike Lomax and the Blair Project’s Nile Henry jetted off for five days of unforgettable experiences.
As well as taking in the traditional tourist attractions, the group visited the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, an organisation which provides similar youth development projects for American youngsters.
“I thought it was amazing, I loved every minute of it,” said Rhys. “It was a really good experience, a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It was really weird to win, but I really enjoyed it.”
The trip was even an eye-opener for Mike, who at 38 visited America for the first time.
“The scale of the city was amazing,” he said. “Hopefully it inspired Rhys to go on and do greater things. It was an amazing trip.”
He added: “It was really good for Rhys to step on that plane and go to a country he might never have had the chance to go to.”
Rhys started off attending the Youth Zone as part of outreach programme five years ago when he was 14, travelling in on WYZ’s outreach bus from Higher Folds.
“I get to do sport and music, get the chance to meet new people and have fun while doing it,” he said.
He urged other teenagers to join WYZ and experience as much as he has. He said: “I’d say just go for it, it’s not a bad environment to be around. They’ll all look after you, and it’s really fun!”
Rhys will soon be too old to be a member of the youth zone, but the staff are keen to keep him involved with their activities. Mike said: “He will be having involvement in our projects, and we’re considering getting a project going that he can lead on, and give a little bit of tuition on.”