Pictured at the inaugural ETB Excellence awards ceremony in Croke Park were: Ray Kennedy, RTÉ News Anchor and former ETB learner, Kieran Burke, ACT Gateway Youth Project; Des Murphy, Change Programme and Youth Work Manager at ETBI; and Alan Coffey, Manager, Athlone Community Taskforce (ACT).

Athlone's Gateway Project wins 'Excellence in Youth Services' award

The ACT Gateway Youth Project in Athlone was "delighted" to win an Excellence in Youth Services award at an event held in Dublin recently.

The accolade was presented to the local project at the Education and Training Board (ETB) Excellence Awards, which took place in Croke Park on Thursday, March 2.

The Gateway project, based in St Mary's Hall on Northgate Street, works with people aged 10 to 24 in the Athlone area, with particular emphasis on young people in Direct Provision and those not in education, training or employment.

Athlone man Kieran Burke, who is the Education and Training Development Officer with the project said the award was an acknowledgement of the contributions that volunteers and others had made through the project.

"We were delighted to receive the award. It's nice to get the recognition for the work I've been doing, but also for the work that's been done over the years by all of the volunteers and the people who set up the ACT Gateway Youth Project, especially the late Michael Fuery.

"Michael passed away in 2020, and it was really his drive that helped to set up the youth project in St Mary's Hall," said Kieran.

The Athlone Community Taskforce (ACT) Gateway Youth Project is run by the Youth Work Unit of Longford and Westmeath ETB.

It runs a variety of programmes for young people including an after-school hub, educational support, one-to-one support for early school leavers, a 'healthy cooking made easy' initiative, a weekly art group and a music hub.

Through the project, Gaisce Bronze medals were recently awarded to five young people who live in Direct Provision in Athlone.

The Gateway project engaged with 128 young people in 2022, and support approximately 40 individual young people every month.

Also in Westmeath, Mullingar Community College won an Excellence in Education Award at the event in Croke Park.

The award was given to the school for its Boston Professional Learning Tour, which involved a visit to Harvard University to research different approaches to tackling educational disadvantage.

Hosted by RTÉ newsreader and former ETB student, Ray Kennedy, the awards event was attended by representatives from all 16 ETBs across the country.

Congratulating the awardees, Paddy Lavelle, Chief Executive of ETBI said: "It gives me great pride to congratulate all the winners, and indeed runners-up on their success in the inaugural ETB Excellence Awards.

"We received over 500 entries from ETBs across the country to the Awards detailing the great people and initiatives that are ongoing in all corners of Ireland.

"The standard across all categories was extremely competitive, meaning we had a very difficult job in narrowing the entries down and selecting our winners. The work of all ETBs – not those just officially recognised at the awards – deserves to be commended.

"Their commitment and passion for education, for learning and for their communities play a vital role in ensuring that there are broad and varied options for people to engage with education and training across the country, no matter what stage of their learning journey they are at."

Mr Lavelle added that this was a milestone year for Education and Training Boards as it marked 10 years since their formation in Ireland.

An 'ETB Heroes' video was also premiered at the awards ceremony, which featured five ETB heroes – including famous faces and former ETB students Ray Kennedy, Tolü Makay and Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill – matched with five current ETB learners, exploring what their ETB means to them and the impact it has on their life.