TODAY was meant to be Jessie Griffin’s big day, when she was to be presented with a Youthstart European Entrepreneurship Award and a cheque for €500
However, the 20-year Ballincollig native surprised her former teachers in the Cork Life Centre by gifting the money to the centre.
Jessie was awarded a silver medal in her category of the Youthstart European Entrepreneurship Awards for the first issue of her autobiographical comic series, One Piece Missing, and she said she had wanted to give something back to the Life Centre, a place to which she says she owes everything.
The Cork Life Centre, which last year celebrated its 20th birthday, is a voluntary organization located on Winter’s Hill in Sunday’s Well, and it offers one-to-one tuition to children who have been failed by the education system.
Jessie was diagnosed as a child with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism, and she struggled in primary school, experiencing literacy difficulties. She liked secondary school, but suffered badly from stress.
“I went to the Life Centre because I couldn’t survive in mainstream anymore,” Jessie told.
A talented artist with a style heavily influenced by Japanese manga, Jessie credits her comic’s success to the encouragement of family and friends, and to the tools given to her by the Life Centre to help cope with daily stress.
One of the themes of the book is how Jessie lives with her autism, and she is passionate about educating the public that disability is not always visible, and mental health struggles are not always obvious on the surface.
Jessie has just turned 20 and is currently studying animation in college, working when she can on the second volume of her book, which is called Leaving the Red Door, and which recounts Jessie’s time in the Life Centre.
In addition to a cheque for €500, Jessie also presented a framed panel from Leaving the Red Door to Life Centre director Don O’Leary and deputy director Rachel Lucey.