Exceptional achievers honoured at Garda Youth Awards

Exceptional achievers honoured at Garda Youth Awards

The winners at this year's Garda Youth Awards held at The Rochestown Park Hotel. Pics: Larry Cummins.

GROUPS and individual young people who have distinguished themselves by their bravery or for exceptional contributions to their community were honoured last night at the Cork City Garda Youth Awards 2021

The awards were sponsored by The Echo, Blizzard Gaming, the Rochestown Park Hotel and Erneside Engineering Limited and took place at the Rochestown Park Hotel yesterday evening.

The honours were handed out by Superintendent John Deasy, with Chief Superintendent Tom Myers also in attendance.

Cork City Comhairle Na nÓg and the Darkness into light committee at Ballincollig community school won group awards while Meg Ryan and Seán O’Mahony won Special Achievement awards. Individual awards were given to Wiktor Owczarek and Casey Cullinane while Amanda Miller and Jamie Buckley won Community Safety awards.

City councillor Mary Rose Desmond was deputising for the Lord Mayor, and told attendeees ‘huge credit is due not just those that have won awards this evening but all those who have been nominated’.

“The Garda Youth Awards is a very valuable vehicle to shine a light on just some of the wonderful work and initiative undertaken by our young people all across the city,” she said.

“I also want to acknowledge the exceptionally challenging time that our young people have had during this pandemic.

“Without doubt our youth have been impacted disproportionately during Covid 19 and they have shown great resilience.

“It is very easy for society to direct their angst at young people in these times, but that is unjust and disproportionate.

“These evenings award winners are ambassadors and just an indication of the wonderful work young people undertake on a daily basis throughout all our communities.”

In addition to the six individuals and two groups honoured with Garda Youth Awards, this year a new award has been created and named in honour of the late Sgt Ben Flahive, a member of An Garda Síochána who was hugely respected for his work in the community.

Casey inspired to take a career in social care

 Individual Award winner Casey Cullinane with Garda Brian McCarthy., JLO. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Individual Award winner Casey Cullinane with Garda Brian McCarthy., JLO. Pic: Larry Cummins.

CASEY Cullinane is from an area where some people have a negative stereotype of young people.

She has set out to show that young people in the area have a spirit of volunteerism and of giving back to the community.

Casey is in the Knockadoon Youth Project, which enables young people to participate in summer camps at Knockadoon to experience water sports, soccer, team-building activities, and development of personal skills.

The camps are for youths who may not otherwise get this opportunity.

In order to fund this camp, award winner Casey organised a number of fundraising events and visited schools to promote the project and its work. This took a huge amount of time and effort.

Because of her efforts, she has afforded 10 young people from Knocknaheeney the chance to attend these summer camps.

These young people have come away with practical skills, teamwork abilities, and a sense of belonging.

They return to their community and spread the word about their endeavours and their ideals of giving back to the community. The spirit of giving back is at the heart of the experience.

Casey strongly believes that young people in her community need and deserve positive experiences. She is dedicated and committed to the project and its participants. She has been inspired to take a career in social care, thus being a role model for young people in her area to continue in education and to work to give back to the community.

Willie gives his heart and soul to Glen area

 Supt John Desay with Willie O'Sullivan, collecting the Sgt Ben Flahive Memorial Award.ic: Larry C ummins.
Supt John Desay with Willie O'Sullivan, collecting the Sgt Ben Flahive Memorial Award.ic: Larry C ummins.

WILLIE O’Sullivan is the winner of the Sgt Ben Flahive award for outstanding contribution to Youth services in Cork City.

The winner of this prestigious award has been living in the heart of The Glen for the past 45 years.

During the day he worked as a butcher but by night and most weekends he gave his heart and soul to his beloved community.

The list of clubs and groups he set up and helped run is hard to believe.

He first got involved with Glen Celtic running soccer teams for the youth of the Glen.

He was instrumental in raising funding for the Glen Resource centre.

A wonderful crèche takes pride of place in this centre along with soccer courts, tennis courts, climbing walls etc and the children of The Glen can certainly thank this winner for this great facility.

The winner recognised that many parents in The Glen needed support in relation to rearing their children and he formed a group, sought and received funding to open an office and appropriately called the group Parents Under Pressure (PUPS).

This winner and Ben got to know each other when Ben became the community Guard for the Glen area.

They struck up a firm friendship that lasted for more than 25 years.

When Ben came up with the idea to apply for a Garda youth diversion project in The Glen area the winner was the first person he approached.

He then went on to become chairman of this project (Glen action project) which he named, as he felt action was much needed, for nearly 20 years. This project has two full time youth workers supporting the young people of The Glen for over 25 years.

This man is the type of person every community would love to have living amongst them.

‘A shining example to their community’

 Supt John Desay with group winners from Ballincollig Community School, Leah O'Connor, Ryan O'Neill, Tadhg O'Connell and Maeve Brett. . Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with group winners from Ballincollig Community School, Leah O'Connor, Ryan O'Neill, Tadhg O'Connell and Maeve Brett. . Pic: Larry Cummins.

Group award: Darkness into Light committee, Ballincollig Community School.

This group raised much-needed funds for Pieta House at a time when resources were extremely stretched.

They showed students in their school the meaning of selflessness and demonstrating to others that young people can recognise and address issues that are very relevant in today’s society.

They never looked for individual reward, never put their names forward for recognition.

They met outside of school time and always made sure their objectives were met in a timely manner.

By organising a fundraising event for Pieta house they also raised awareness for this wonderful charity. This group are a shining example to their school and the greater community of Ballincollig.

This group winner is the Darkness into Light committee of Ballincollig Community School.

Amanda, 14, uniting her neighbourhood

 Supt John Desay with Amanda Miller, Greenwood Estate, Togher. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with Amanda Miller, Greenwood Estate, Togher. Pic: Larry Cummins.

Amanda Miller, 14, gives so much to her community. 

At the beginning of lockdown, she delivered notes to all 156 houses in Greenwood Estate, telling the elderly residents to contact her if they needed anything. 

She included a Kitkat with every note, so everyone, in their own homes, could have a cup of tea and a bar at the same time. Throughout the pandemic, she has been delivering groceries to those in her estate who are cocooning, maintaining a connection with the older generation.

On the day that she should have made her confirmation, she did a balloon drop in Greenwood Estate, when children and their grandparents stepped outside to wave at each other and release the balloons as a beacon of hope for the future.

This winner is also a volunteer with ‘Dogs for the Disabled’, the charity ‘Balance 2’, and ‘Togher Tidy Towns’. Her contribution to ‘Tidy Towns’ encourages young people to respect their community and shows that to protect the environment, you must start small and local.

Comhairle na nÓg embracing inclusivity

 Supt John Desay with group winners from Comhairle na nOg. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with group winners from Comhairle na nOg. Pic: Larry Cummins.

THE members of Comhairle na nÓg shared personal stories of alarming encounters with racism, homophobia and transphobia in Cork City.

They decided to address the issue of inclusivity.

In order to research how to best implement change, they contacted various organisations such as Cork Migrant Centre, Traveller Visibility Group, Cork City Schools of Sanctuary, The Lifecentre and ABCD (A Black Child’s Dilemma).

They worked with Graffitti Theatre and Dowtcha puppets to explore creative ways in which to develop a positive message of inclusivity in Cork City.

The group have developed an Anti-Racism policy for all current and future members and an inclusivity pledge and poster.

They have also designed and developed an Inclusivity video that can be used in schools as a resource.

They are sending the poster and video to all schools to promote inclusivity and to encourage schools and organisations to implement an Anti-Racism policy.

They designed billboard posters for promotion of inclusivity in Cork City which were displayed around the city in early November.

The members of this group are highly conscientious young people and worked hard to develop positive ways to promote inclusivity in Cork City.

They did this while also dealing with the pandemic but their enthusiasm and work ethic continued to be strong throughout.

Jamie, 15, helped to save a person’s life

 Supt John Desay with Jamie Buckley. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with Jamie Buckley. Pic: Larry Cummins.

When he was 15-years-old Jamie Buckley was out walking his dog.

He observed a male placing a rope around his neck and around the branch of a tree.

The man had intended on taking his own life.

Jamie immediately contacted his father who contacted the emergency services.

He intervened and stayed with the male until the emergency services arrived.

This youth’s intervention saved a man’s life.

He showed maturity and initiative in his actions which resulted in a very positive outcome.

Because of what Jamie did, the man received the help that he needed and his family were spared the extreme trauma of losing a loved one through suicide.

The actions of this young person on the day had a huge positive impact on the man, his family, friends and the community.

He is a worthy winner of this award.

Meg an inspiration to all sports people

 Supt John Desay with Award winner Meg Ryan. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with Award winner Meg Ryan. Pic: Larry Cummins.

MEG Ryan has competed in gymnastics from a young age. At 12 and 13 she was winning All-Ireland junior titles. By the time she was 18 she held three senior titles.

She has competed and won at the highest level in Europe and the World championships.

She completed her Leaving Certificate in Christ King school gaining exceptional results and has gone on to do Pharmacy. She has done all of this while competing in the Tokyo Olympics — the first Cork and one of the first Irish gymnasts to do so.

She trains at least 30 hours a week travelling from college to Douglas Gymnastics. While studying for her Leaving Cert she trained after school from 4pm to 9pm and went home to do her school work into the early hours. She also trains every Saturday, all day. She now travels to Dublin once a week to train with the Irish team.

This sort of commitment is why she is at the top of her sport. Her dedication to gymnastics must be commended but also her dedication to her studies when she was training so vigorously. She not only represented her club in Tokyo but her school, her community, her city and her country.

Wiktor helps fellow students with tech

 Supt John Desay with award winner Wiktor Owczarek. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with award winner Wiktor Owczarek. Pic: Larry Cummins.

WIKTOR Owczarek is a true inspiration to his fellow pupils at Nagle Community College. When Covid hit he responded with an attitude of positivity and he was willing to help. The school sourced donated ‘Tech for Students’ from local companies, businesses and individuals.

When the donations were gathered this young man organised and configured all of the sixth year students’ laptops and installed operating systems, software and updates. He insured that each of the students now had a high spec, fully operational laptop at their disposal to assist them with their studies.

This young man made huge efforts for the benefit of his peers. He is described by his principal and deputy as being diligent, hard working, motivated, engaging, responsible and respectful.

He is the first Nagle CC student to take Computer Science as a Leaving Cert Honours Level subject. He is also proactive in the community.

Autistic Baker an enterprising teen

 Supt John Desay with Award winner Sean O'Mahony. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Supt John Desay with Award winner Sean O'Mahony. Pic: Larry Cummins.

Seán O’Mahony, 15, was diagnosed with autism when he was five. He has overcome various obstacles associated with his diagnosis.

Through his home-school programme, this award winner identified opportunities to challenge himself and to raise awareness of autism.

Sean discovered a love for baking and found that it was therapeutic. He established a local cottage industry, upskilling and learning to bake all sorts of produce.

He embraced his condition; Instead of hiding behind his disability, he showed the endless possibilities for a person with autism. He named his enterprise The Autistic Baker.

Its success has not only inspired the local community in Mahon, but the autism family worldwide.

Those who are linked to the autism community have seen what can be achieved, both personally and professionally.

This young man is continually looking to establish a business that will enable other people his own age to get involved and progress the project further. This initiative has instilled in young people with autism that it is not a barrier, but an opportunity to promote inclusivity.

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