The culmination of the 'Poreto for Progression' project was the launch of a cross-border youth manifesto to audiences of parent, politicians and community partners both in Milford and Portadown. The project has been funded by the International Fund for Ireland and has been a partnership between Portadown College and Loretto Community College in Milford.
During the two groups visited each other's communities and discussed a wide range of issues as they got to build relationships and understand each other's perspectives. This work culminated in them agreeing 3 themes that they would like to present with recommendations:
Mental Health and Social Media
Social Deprivation and Drug Abuse
On participation the young people wanted to see change at school - through stronger youth voice mechanisms and suggestion boxes. They wanted to debate the idea to reduce the voting age with their peers, and they wanted to see the re-establishment of a local Youth Council in Portadown. The two groups would also like to see a Youth Council at an all-island level.
On mental health students felt strongly that positive mental health should be promoted in schools "...from the first day of school to the last." They want mental health awareness to be strengthened in the curriculum and for teachers to receive pre-service and in-service training in supporting mental health. They felt that there would be value in an all-island approach including the regulation of social media to keep young people safe and better training to support young people to stay safe online. They would also like to see more projects like this one as they felt it has been great for their mental health.
The group were very concerned about the issues facing those most impacted by austerity across the island. They felt that much more could be done to create affordable childcare - particularly for singe-parent families and that schools could provide much of this support. This could include support to parents for other areas including money management and programmes to support their confidence and routes back into work. They want tougher action against drug dealers and also better resourcing of local community policing.
Their manifesto was given a warm welcome from Avila Kilmurray who is a Board Member for IFI, who commended their work and the value of cross-border engagement as a 'cross-border project' herself! The students also responded to questions from the floor on their ideas, including from local politicians in Donegal and Portadown.
Several of the young people talked about the impact the project has had on them, helping to grow their confidence, increase their communications skills, build new friendships and deepen existing ones.
We were delighted that IFI announced that they will continue to fund the project - so that another cohort of students can benefit from this experience and that we can deepen the relationships between the schools and their local communities.
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