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2 All-Ireland Youth Volunteers named


Jennifer Lynch from Derry and Shane Walsh from Mayo Honoured at 2010 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards


Jennifer Lynch from Creggan in Derry, and Shane Walsh from Castlebar, Co. Mayo, were named All Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year at a ceremony in Cork, at the conclusion of the fourth annual Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards. 


Jennifer and Shane were among 20 Finalists from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern 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 Mickey Harte, Tyrone senior football manager.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Harte described the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards as a tremendous platform to showcase and honour youth volunteerism.  “I have spent many years working with young people and I am delighted to see a company spearhead a programme that gives recognition to Ireland’s most deserving teenagers.  Jennifer and Shane’s commitment to their communities is remarkable and I wish to congratulate them on their leadership and selflessness,” said the Tyrone football manager.


Henry McGarvey, managing director, Pramerica Systems Ireland, added, “We continue to be inspired by the young volunteers who enter this competition.    As a company we are humbled by the level of youth volunteerism in Ireland.  Students such as Jennifer and Shane are an inspiration to their peers, their community and will no doubt be ambassadors for change in the future.”


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 four years ago to encourage youth volunteerism throughout Ireland and to identify and reward young role models.


Jennifer Lynch, 18, a year 14 student at St. Mary’s College in Derry, was selected for the honour because of her commitment to her local community.  Jennifer is a volunteer leader in a local youth club, which serves as an oasis for young people in an area of social deprivation with high levels of anti-social behaviour.


Jennifer devotes 20 hours per week to the youth club and is the elected chairperson of the youth club committee.  And for six weeks in the summer, she spends nine hours a day at the club.  Through her involvement with the youth club, she has gained qualifications from the Open College Network in Participation, Young Adult Development, Sexual Health, Conflict and Resolution, Peer Mentoring and Law and Order.  Jennifer also led a scheme to develop a wildlife garden for a local primary school, which was featured on RTE’s Glorious Gardens programme.


For the future, Jennifer intends to study youth work at university and says she will also maintain her links with the youth club.  She says that it can be difficult to engage young people but that her training has helped her immensely.


Jennifer’s vice-principal, Martine Mulhern, says, “Jennifer’s contribution to her community has been nothing less than outstanding, benefiting all those she works with.”


Shane Walsh, 17, a fifth year student at Davitt College in Castlebar, was selected for the honour because of his commitment to his friend Cian who has special needs.  


Shane’s uncompromising friendship with Cian began five years ago when both boys enrolled at Davitt College on the same day.  Since then, Shane has become Cian’s constant caregiver and has ensured that his school experience resembles, as much as possible, every other student’s in the school.


Cian must be transferred from a manual wheelchair to a powered wheelchair each morning and evening.  Shane waits for Cian to arrive in the morning and from that minute until he finishes school, Shane looks out for him. 


Cian’s family are delighted with how well he has fitted into school and greatly appreciate Shane’s help.  Shane intends to keep in touch with Cian and also plans to take a year out to do volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, who build houses for the poor in the Third World.


Bernadette Rowland, principal at Davitt College describes Shane as “an exception young man who has the capacity to blend a deep sense of caring with intelligence and commitment.  His tremendous kindness became evident as soon as he began at Davitt College”.


Jennifer and Shane 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.


The committee that chose the two All-Ireland Youth Volunteers included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate John Hume; Mary Davis, managing director, EurAsia Special Olympics; Yvonne McKenna, CEO, Volunteer Centres Ireland; Ciaran McCormack, past president NAPD; GTCNI Chairperson Sally McKee; and McGarvey.

NAPD President Tim Geraghty said, “NAPD is delighted to be associated with the Spirit of Community programme.  We are consistently surprised by the variety and high standard of applications received each year.  As teachers we appreciate the opportunity to reward our post-primary school students who give many hours to volunteering.  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, “This programme gives unrivalled recognition to Ireland’s most selfless 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.  20 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 2010 Pramerica

Spirit of Community Awards Finalists


Alice Bradley, 14, from Killarney, Co. Kerry, a third year student at Presentation Secondary School in Miltown, Co. Kerry,  visits an elderly neighbour each evening to provide essential duties such as cooking meals, lighting the fire, bringing in fuel and cleaning the house.  When Alice’s father passed away suddenly last June, the neighbour helped her get through this difficult time, and now Alice is making a  big difference in her neighbour’s life, while  encouraging  friends to follow her example.


Although Alice is currently studying for her Junior Certificate and sometimes finds it difficult to make time to visit her elderly neighbour, she never fails to be there each evening.  In addition to helping with chores, Alice brightens her neighbour’s spirits by sharing stories and laughter with her.


Alice’s school principal, Kerry Harkin, says Alice has been an inspiration to both her peers and the staff in the school.  She has faced considerable difficulties over the past year.  Even in those times when she feels sad about her Dad, she demonstrates her maturity and selflessness by helping others.”


Rebecca Casey, 17, from Douglas, Co. Cork, a sixth year student at Christ King Secondary School in Douglas, travelled to Navodari, Romania, last June as a volunteer with the Aurelia Trust.  This charity seeks to improve the lives of institutionalised people between the ages of 17 and 30, many of whom have physical or developmental delay.


Rebecca spent six hours a day for 10 days with the young people in the institution.  She also spent time with those who had moved from the institution into residential homes offering one-to-one care and stimulation.  Rebecca also raised the money needed to take the trip and she organised a series of events in her community.


After 10 days in Romania, Rebecca said she could see positive change in the lives of the people she worked with, and as a result of this she hopes to travel to Navodari on an annual basis.  She also intends to continue fundraising for the Aurelia Trust.


Cáit Watkins, year tutor at Christ King Secondary School, says of Rebecca, “It does not surprise me that Rebecca undertook this work as she has a beautiful personality and this helped in garnering the support of her fellow students in fundraising for the trip to Romania.”


Karina Cronin, 15, from Ballydesmond, Co. Cork, a third year student at Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, Co. Kerry, is actively involved in  a range of community activities for young and old as a member of her local Social Action Group. 


Karina uses her own talents as a gifted singer and dancer to entertain elderly residents of Rathmore.  She also supervises at a weekly youth disco. Volunteering “makes you happier in yourself by making a difference in someone else’s life,” she says.


Despite being only 15 years old, Karina has developed the confidence to lead teams and inspire others.  Her willingness to get involved in any task is evident.

Jerh O’Donoghue, the president of Rathmore Social Action Group, describes Karina as “a beacon who keeps the Social Action Group flag flying.  Her dedication has inspired over 40 new members to join in the last couple of months.”


Conleth Dolan, 18, from Lurgan, Co. Armagh, a year 14 student at Back

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