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Back: Carol-Ann Began, Andrew Dolan. Front L–R: Karen Conroy, Julie Flaherty, Emily McNamara, Dr. Susan Redmond, Chloe Crowe, Haley O’Shea, Riona Greally, (Saidhbh Madhi absent).

Saturday 19th of November saw 167 young people aged 16–18 years graduate from NUI Galway with a Foundation Certificate in Youth Leadership and Community Action. All of which have gained this certificate before they have even completed their Leaving Certificates. These young people participated in the programme through Foroige projects, clubs, schools, and at Foróige’s youth leadership conference. This was the fourth group of graduates from this programme which was developed under the academic leadership of Prof. Pat Dolan from the UNESCO Centre for Child and Family Research in conjunction with Foróige’s Best Practice Unit. From an initial group of 6 graduates in 2009/10 to 167 today, the programme is growing in strength and popularity.

Leadership programmes are a pivotal resource in equipping young people with the skills to become positive role models and take on effective leadership roles in their communities. Programmes such as this strengthen young people’s skills in problem solving, communication, critical thinking, goal setting and leading others. These skills are of the utmost importance to the Irish economy and these young people’s ability to contribute not only to the workplace but also to society at large. Each of the students graduating has already made a substantive contribution to their communities through their community action project. Projects which they developed from concept to completion and which saw them put their skills into practice to benefit others around them.

The programme focuses on what young people can contribute now as leaders, instead of sometime off in the future. Indeed what they develop today will no doubt also stand to them in the future but the programme places an emphasis on young people as a valuable resource within communities right now. Particularly, as they have an energy and a fresh way of looking at things that can enhance how communities solve their problems if they are included. From the Claregalway Youth Leadership group 8 of the 7 young people who graduated are pictured below. The question now remains what will these young people do with their skills and where will we be seeing them in the future?! Best of luck to them all!