A GROUP of Cork students who played a leading role in raising awareness of suicide among young people in their community were last night named as Young Social Innovators of the Year 2011.
Judges commended the group from Mount Mercy College Cork for their project, Divert Your Stride From Suicide. “It was a project that undertook a huge amount of work on a very sensitive issue, culminating in a conference for 600 students,” the judges declared.
One of the 22 students involved in the project, Niamh McCarthy, said none of the group knew much about suicide when they started the project last September.
“We believe that because of our efforts transition students across Cork are more aware of the issue. If we have saved just one life, we have done a good job,” she said.
Ms McCarthy also pointed out that an information booklet on suicide, published by the Irish Examiner, was extremely helpful. The group’s YSI teacher, Mairéad O’Donoghue, said the group were totally committed to the project from the start. “For a group of 16-year-old girls it is a massive achievement,” she said.
A total of 60 projects from more than 350 were shortlisted for yesterday’s showcase event. Runners-up were Davis College, Mallow, Co Cork, for their project that helped create awareness of missing persons.
The winning students were presented with their awards by the chairperson and co-founder of Young Social Innovators, St Stanislaus Kennedy at an awards ceremony in Dublin.
Over 35,000 students have participated in Young Social Innovators, which yesterday celebrated its 10th anniversary in the company of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as well as more than 3,000 young people.
Mr Kenny said that from talking with young people in Cork recently, he was aware that mental health was a major issue.
“Mental health is a problem for young people — depression, disillusionment, disappointment, feeling that they are not wanted, that they don’t have a value,” he said.
“Yes, you do have a value. You should not be disappointed. We are here to help in any way to encourage and motivate people along the road of life,” Mr Kenny stressed.
He said the Government valued the work done by Young Social Innovators in encouraging more than 5,500 young people from all over the country to become social innovators – an important element of character training and personality building.
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said she was glad the Taoiseach wanted to build a socially cohesive and just Ireland and had confidence that the young people would help him do that.
“What Young Social Innovators is doing is giving young people the skills to be entrepreneurs and innovators and, at the same time caring about social issues,” she said.
Chief executive and co-founder of Young Social Innovators, Rachel Collier, announced plans to roll out a prototype framework for local ‘Centres of Innovators’ that will enable young people of all ages to undertake social innovation projects that help their community.
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