Tallaght and Newry Students Honoured at Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards
LETTERKENNY - Robert Cosgrove, 17, of Tallaght, Dublin, and Christina Wylie, 18, of Newry, Co. Down, were named All Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year last night at a ceremony in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, to mark the third annual Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards.
Robert and Christina were among 15 Finalists from the island of Ireland, who were honoured at the event for outstanding volunteer service. Each of the finalists received a personal award of €500 and an engraved silver medallion presented by Dr. Jimmy Devins T.D., Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister Devins described the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards as an excellent programme giving much-needed recognition to youth volunteerism. "I want to congratulate Pramerica for their innovation in spearheading the national awards programme. I also want to pay tribute to Robert and Christina and to the other finalists who have shown relentless dedication to acts of volunteerism both in their local communities and abroad. I am deeply touched by the inspirational stories of volunteerism during tonight's event," said Minister Devins.
According to Henry McGarvey, managing director, Pramerica Systems Ireland, "This national awards ceremony recognises the inspiring volunteer activities undertaken by young people in our communities. We're always amazed by the level of commitment demonstrated by volunteers like Christina and Robert. Pramerica is a proud partner in this programme of recognition for such inspiring and exemplary young people.
"Pramerica Systems Ireland sponsors the Pramerica Spirit of Community programme in partnership with the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). The programme was introduced three years ago to encourage youth volunteerism throughout the island of Ireland and to identify and reward young role models.
Robert, 17, a sixth year student at St. Aidan's Community School, in Tallaght was selected for the honour because of his work in his local Youth Café, which offers a retreat for young people dealing with a range of social issues.
Robert encourages teenagers to stay off the streets and away from drugs and gangland violence. He says he usually helps the youth deal with difficulties that involve bullying, self-harm and violence. He serves as a conduit between parents and their children and helps them resolve their problems in conjunction with professional counsellors. Having volunteered at the Café for four years, Robert has become an important confidant to his peers.
Christina, 18, a year 14 student at Newry High School in Co. Down, was selected for the honour for helping people with disabilities. She became interested in volunteering six years ago when her cousin, who is disabled and blind, came to live with her family, following the death of his parents.
Her cousin attends Newry Gateway Club and so Christina decided to get involved. Christina is now a core part of the team and is involved in the STOP programme. And through the Befriending Role whereby she visits an elderly lady once a week.
Robert and Christina also received engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools, and €1,000 for charities of their choice. They will also be flown to Washington, D.C., in early May to take part in a gathering of top youth volunteers from several other countries at the recognition events for the Prudential Spirit of Community awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial, Inc.* (PFI), the parent company of Pramerica Systems Ireland.
The selection committee that chose the two All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year included Pulitzer Peace Prize Laureate John Hume, Mary Davis, Managing Director, EurAsia Special Olympics; Yvonne McKenna, CEO, Volunteer Centres Ireland; Áine O'Neill, former President, NAPD; GTCNI Chairperson Sally McKee; and Henry McGarvey of Pramerica.
"NAPD is delighted to be associated with the Spirit of Community programme," says NAPD President Ciaran McCormack. "NAPD is consistently surprised by the variety and high standard of applications in the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards. The awards themselves offer an invaluable platform for post-primary school students to showcase the range of voluntary activities that they undertake. The programme is also unique in that it brings together school leaders from across Ireland. The partnership between NAPD and GTCNI led by Pramerica is very much welcomed."
Sally McKee, Chairperson of GTCNI, said "GTCNI is delighted to be associated with this awards programme as it gives unrivalled recognition to these fine young people, who give up so much of their spare time to community activities. Many of these students undertake the work on their own initiative. The standard of the applications this year was phenomenal and a true reflection of the fantastic young people in our schools. Pramerica is providing important recognition to young people and to their schools which is welcomed by GTCNI."
Application forms for the awards programme were distributed last autumn throughout all post-primary and second-level schools in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 15 finalists were selected in February, based on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth. The finalists were all presented with Certificates of Achievement at their schools by officials of Pramerica, NAPD and GTCNI over the past month, and received further recognition at last night's dinner.
>> The 2009 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards Finalists