Over 100 young people from second and third-level institutions across County Galway and Roscommon were honoured with a Gaisce Medal at a special ceremony in NUI Galway last night. Organised by the University’s Gaisce Society, who this year celebrate over ten years in existence, the Awards were presented by NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne on behalf of the Patron of Gaisce -The President’s Award, President Michael D. Higgins.
Two NUI Galway students, Eimear O’Callaghan from Craughwell, Co. Galway and Laura Staunton from Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, were presented with a Gaisce Silver Award. Eimear volunteers with a homework club in the Claddagh National School helping children with their reading. Laura volunteers with the Galway Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals and was a member of the Galway University Musical Society production of Spring Awakening.
Bronze awards were presented to secondary schools and community groups including: Castlerea Community School, Co. Roscommon; Coláiste na Coiribe, Galway City; Dunmore Community School, Co. Galway; Presentation Secondary School, Galway City; Archbishop McHale College, Tuam, Co. Galway; St Jarlath's College, Tuam, Co. Galway; Dominican College, Taylors Hill, Galway City and Youthreach, Galway City.
Gaisce, the President’s Award, is the National Challenge to young people and the President of Ireland is the Patron of the organisation. Last year, the number of young people taking on the Gaisce challenge rose nationally by 15% from the previous year to over 20,000 and the range of activities that people worked on shows the positive energy and imagination the young people bring to their community.
The Gaisce Awards consists of three awards, Gold, Silver and the Bronze award. These awards recognise four areas in which the individual has completed - community involvement, personal skill, physical recreation, and adventure journey. As the challenges are completely individually there is no pressure or competition between participants as the individual is only competing with themselves. This challenges the young person to be self motivated and to push themselves to the best of their ability.
This year’s recipients have played a leadership role in the community from setting up a branch of the Vincent DePaul Society to young men cooking meals for COPE Galway’s meals on wheels service. These young people have learned a variety of skills from music, art and drama to first aid and, of course, cooking.
Billy Stewart, Auditor of Gaisce Society and at student of the Higher Diploma in Education at NUI Galway, said: “The society is proud to be able to honour the hard work of such exceptional young people. Each year we become more and more impressed by the growing numbers and enthusiasm of our members, with this enthusiasm we have been able to organise adventure journeys on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and over the Atlas Mountains in Morocco with more planned for the future. The Gaisce Award allows young people all over Ireland to show what they are capable of and we are more than happy to enable this to continue to happen.”