Call to action for Westmeath youth
Teenagers throughout Westmeath are being called upon to enter a competition in which a local school was runner-up last year. Rachel Collier, CEO, Young Social Innovators, Ireland"s largest social awareness and action programme for 15-18 year olds announcing details of this year"s programme, which will involve an estimated 8,000 young people, said it gave young people an opportunity of looking at ways to help tackle today"s social problems. St Joseph"s Rochfortbridge, for example, were joint-runners up at the YSI 2008 Awards last May with their suicide awareness campaign while Our Lady"s Bower won the Trocaire award for their campaign to replace all footballs in schools with Fair Trade balls. Besides those mentioned above, the other Westmeath entries in last year"s competition were from Loreto College, Mullingar, which submitted: 'Road Safety, it"s not all black and white'; Marist College, Athlone, 'Fire Safety in the Home; and 'Giving Aid Through Trade'; Moate Community College with 'Sexual Assault and Rape - Is there any escape?'; 'The Shock of Your Life'; 'Is there an answer to cancer?' and 'Suicide the Silent Epidemic'. 'Young people"s innate sense of justice, their energy and forward-thinking attitude makes them ideally suited to providing some of the fresh thinking that is urgently needed to resolve the problems faced by society today,' said Ms. Collier. YSI"s motto 'Believe in it. Act on it' is a call to action for Irish youth to explore social issues that concern them and their communities and come up with new responses, she stated. 'As the deadline approaches for entries to the 2009 programme, we would encourage all schools and youth educational organisations to participate.' Participants in YSI 2009 will be invited to speak on their chosen social issue at the 'Speak Out Fora' - the series of regional events that takes place annually in the New Year. Their project may also be one of the hundreds that will be presented at the Young Social Innovators Showcase at the RDS, Dublin, in May 2009 where they will be in contention for the 'Young Social Innovators of the Year' Awards. YSI was co-founded by Rachel Collier and Sr Stanislaus Kennedy to develop social awareness and activism amongst young people. Now in its seventh year, over 25,000 young people have participated in the programme since it began as a pilot in 2002. It is funded entirely through sponsorship. In addition to its main sponsor, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, YSI receives funding from the Health Service Executive, the Office for the Minister for Children, Anglo Irish Bank, Bedminster International, the Department of Education and Science, the Combat Poverty Agency, Irish Aid, Irish Sisters of Charity, Trocaire and KPMG. The closing date for applications for the YSI programme for the 2008/9 academic year is 19th September 2008. Application forms are available at www.youngsocialinnovators.ie.