Youth group presents new book to local army chief

A new study entitled "The Army", was handed over to Lt. Col Joe Scanlon, Officer Commanding the 6th Infantry Battalion recently in Costume Barracks, Athlone. The publication tracing the history and development of the defences forces in the town was written by teenagers participating in the Peer Education Programme 2008, an initiative set up Athlone Community Taskforce (ACT) to help bridge the gap for youngsters between primary and secondary school. Back in 2005, an Educational Action Research Project was initated by ACT over a one-year period to examine from a young person"s perspective the experience of the transition from primary to post-primary school under the stewardship of Sheila McArdle. Her report published in 2006 recommended eleven initiatives which would lead to creating conditions to support young people to make a positive transition from primary to post-primary school. One of the recommendations put in place was the Summer Connect Programme which runs three days a week from June to August. The programme accommodates 21 children and provides for the development of social interaction skills, numeracy and literacy skills, and self-care skills using a child centred approach. The programme also maintains a connection between finishing school in June and restarting school in September. A group of young people who had been through the Summer Connect Programme in 2006 and 2007 requested that ACT run a summer programme for them as they were out of age to participate in the initiative and on foot of this, the agency initiated a pilot Peer-Education Programme for ten youngsters aged between 14 and 16. Two Social Care Workers, Eilis Cully and Gillian Cunniffe were employed to manage the programme for the Summer months. As it was a youth- led project, it was the task of the young people to select a topic to be developed into a peer education programme. Their decision was to research the army as a career. Eight young people completed the programme and produced a document called "The Army" as a result. 'It links the history and development of the army and Athlone in to an accurate and comprehensive piece of work, which can act as a reference point both for the army and civilians looking for information about the defence forces. Congratulations to the team of Michael Oviawe, Lucky Oviawe, Peter Santa, Mathew Woods, Saba Abriamidze, Edward Byrne, Caolan Flynn and Warren Conroy,' Mike Fuery, CEO of ACT said at the ceremony. He added that the young people were greatly helped in their endeavours by Denis Collins, a leading member of the Athlone Walking Club who instructed them in orientation and map reading, and Joe Relihan, a retired army sergeant who gave an insight into army life. Thanks were also expressed to army personnel from Custume Barracks who organised tours of the barracks and gave talks on the Defence Forces. Another part of the programme for the young people was to act as peers and this they did very successfully by imparting their new found knowledge to the participants of the Summer Connect Programme. The project was evaluated by Eilis Cully and Gillian Cunniffe and published document is now available in local libraries and third-level institutions. Athlone Community Taskforce would like to thank Lt. Col. Scanlon GOC Costume Barracks and his staff for their tremendous support and cooperation, Delores Crerar, ACT, for her part in organising the presentation event and the young people themselves who have gained so much from the experience.