Reaching Out to Early School-Leavers

Clare Champion, Friday, 31st March 2000

Youthreach is an educational programme catering for early school-leavers over 15 years of age. Many availing of the programme have little or no qualifications and come to the centre hoping for a second-chance education.

Clare Vocational Education Committee Youthreach opened in Miltown Malbay in 1996 after transferring from Ennistymon where it had been in operation since 1990. Funded by the Department of Education through Clare V.E.C. and the European Social Fund, Youthreach in Miltown Malbay strives to provide a diversity so that the educational, academic, social and psychological needs of each individual is met. The academic needs of young people are met by way of Leaving Certificate Applied, Junior Certificate and N.C.V.A. certification. The centre also has an outdoor education programme, first aid, music, vocational guidance and counselling facilities.

The atmosphere in the centre is lively and energetic yet caring and supportive and each student has a member of staff as a mentor. The students also have a representative who meets regularly with staff to discuss student needs. At present there are fourteen students on the programme from Ennistymon, Lahinch, Miltown Malbay and Quilty, and as well as Leaving Certificate Applied modules on offer, there are also a range of other modules.

The staff at the centre are Josephine Dempsey (co-ordinator and teacher of Mathematics, English and Irish), Liam Keane (Resource teacher and teacher of Information Technology, Craft and Design and Woodwork), Julie Brosnan (Visual Art, Drama and Social Education), Katriona Gannon (Vocational Preparation and Guidance, Hotel Catering and Tourism), Claudia Lavigne (French), Sarah Moore (Stained Glass), Mary Fitzgerald (Leathercraft, Flower Arranging, Calligraphy, Plaster-cast Moulding and Copperwork) and Margaret Walsh (Literacy, Music). Catherine Phillips does an Art Therapy session with the students and five students have just successfully completed a basic First Aid course delivered by Kitty Pender of the Red Cross.

In the past number of weeks the centre has sent out questionnaires to parents and students requesting feedback regarding the programme on offer in Miltown Malbay. The feedback has been extremely positive and supportive of Youthreach. Parents feel that the programme is meeting the needs of their sons/daughters, that Youthreach provides a vital service for early school leavers, that the centre operates like a family unit where there are ups and downs, but all difficulties are dealt with as soon as possible in a professional manner which leads to a positive outcome.

The young people themselves all speak highly of the programme, are proud of their achievements and feel that they have been given a second chance regarding their overcoming the stumbling blocks of low self esteem, lack of confidence and very often difficulties regarding numeracy, literacy and verbal commuication.

Co-ordinator, Josephine Dempsey, working
on Maths. with LCA 1 students, Ian McInerney
and Bernie Lysaght.
Hotel/Catering and Tourism tutor, Catriona
Gannon and LCA 1 student, Adrian Downes,
in the kitchen at the Youthreach Centre.

Photographs by John Kelly, Clare Champion.

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