A GROUP of young people from Athy have been recognised for overcoming a range of challenges in their lives with a special awards ceremony organised by social justice charity Extern.
Six young men, all currently engaged on Extern’s Athy-based Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP) have been presented with certificates for a variety of achievements such as completing Extern’s summer programme and a kayaking skills course.
The ceremony was held at Athy’s Church of Ireland Centre on Tuesday 15 October, with family members, representatives from An Garda Síochána, Athy Town Promoters and local schools among those who attended.
It also included the presentation of flower boxes made by the young participants, which will feature in the garden of the Woodstock Forum Community House, as well as a look at some of the project work completed by the youths including spiders which will take their place on stage during the town’s Halloween event on 31 October.
“We’re absolutely delighted to have them,” Athy Town Promoters’ Patricia Berry remarked of the flower boxes.
Extern’s GYDP engages with young people aged between 12 and 17 who are at risk of or who are involved in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour. It provides them with targeted supports to stop their offending and become positive contributors to society.
Youth justice worker Liam Mooney explained that they work with young people directly for one to three hours each per week, either through group work or on an individual basis. “During this direct work, we work towards promoting the young people’s social and personal development through a range of different programmes and interventions,” he stated. “This will effectively result in a reduction in youth crime in the project’s catchment area, which covers the Athy Municipal District.
Liam added that there are 11 young people participating in the project at present and remarked that Athy is a lovely town to work in with a “good community feel”.
One of the young participants is Ryan (15), who said that he’s been involved for a number of months now and described it as “good craic”, while 14-year-old Aidan has been on the programme for two years and enjoys aspects like go-karting and woodworking.
Rhys (14) said that it’s good to learn and that everything they’re doing “makes you more creative”. He also highlighted the fact that participants can sit down and talk to people. “I’m on it the last, nearly ten months now,” he said.
The Athy GYDP is one of four such programmes run by Extern at present, with others based in Naas, Limerick and Raheny. The projects offer youths vital new opportunities for education, employment and training, as well as sport, art, music and other activities that contribute to improving employability. The programme places great importance on working with local residents, community groups, local partnerships, community centres and any other local services relevant to the young people’s needs.
“We are justly proud of the young people who take part in our GYDP projects, as it shows how committed they are to transforming their lives – and their communities – for the better,” said Extern CEO Charlie Mack. “These young men have all shown that they have what it takes to complete the programme, and I look forward to seeing them take the next step on a bright new path. I wish them all the very best for the future.”