Youth volunteer Emma honoured at virtual awards ceremony

Emma Smyth

EMMA Smyth, a sixth-year student at St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, was selected from hundreds of youth volunteers across Ireland and recognised for the exemplary work she carries out in her local community at the 2020 Pramerica Spirit of Community Virtual Awards Ceremony, held on Tuesday 15th September.

Emma has been chosen as one of 20 exceptional young people from across Ireland, who are considered to be some of the island’s most outstanding youth volunteers, working to make a positive impact on their local communities.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards celebration was a little different this year, marking a unique milestone for the Spirit of Community awards with the celebration taking place virtually, celebrating the creativity and commitment of Ireland’s top young volunteers.

Emma has been volunteering within her local community and beyond since a family member was sadly diagnosed with cancer. Emma and her family have helped to raise funds for charities such as Cancer Fund for Children and donated regularly to help the other families who were going through the same situation.

Emma volunteers and fundraises for charities such as Autumn Leaf Club, an organisation for elderly people that allows them to meet others through organising old-style dancing events, day trips and meals.

She also volunteered in Ghana for two weeks working in a local village school and hospital and successfully fundraised £1,800 for the local village in order to improve living conditions.

Emma also organised and ran a bake sale for Children in Need, raising £200 and has contributed to the Road of Hope charity for over 14 years by taking part in their Shoe box appeal every year.

Emma participated in an International exchange program with Erasmus for 10 days to Denmark, delivering a presentation to individuals from five different European countries on the differences within Northern Ireland and went on to join a Young Leadership International program where she spoke about NI politics.

The two All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year named at the event were Aaron Smith, a sixth-year student at St Louise’s Comprehensive in Belfast and Liadh Hanley, a sixth-year student from St Angela’s College, Cork.

They each received €1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice, a gold medallion and a crystal trophy for their school. In addition to this, both students also received an additional €1,000 in prize money for their selfless efforts.

The awards which are run in partnership with The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), also recognised the top two Junior Honourees, Charlotte Gallaher from Dublin and Sophia Shally from Mayo who both received an additional €500 for their chosen charity.

The event kicked off on Monday 14th with a virtual mindfulness workshop from inspirational speaker Annette Kelly (Little Penny Thoughts), who gave the finalists the chance to share insights on their unique volunteering stories.

The awards event held on Tuesday 15th September saw honourees enjoy inspirational words from guest speaker Adam Harris and it gave both them and their families the chance to acknowledge their achievements and connect with each other live from their homes and schools across Ireland.

“Both Aaron and Liadh are amazing students and inspiring role models in their local communities,” said Naomi Hegarty, vice president, Risk & Privacy, Pramerica Systems Ireland and executive sponsor for the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards.

“All of our 2020 finalists carry out exceptional volunteer work with the ultimate goal of making the lives better of those in need. It’s great to see their achievements being celebrated and I look forward to hearing about their continued good work in the future.”

“If there is anything the last few months have shown us, it is the absolute value of volunteerism, the difference that it can make in communities and the importance of recognising those contributions and achievements around us.

“We also know it is particularly important that we have shining lights working to respond to challenges as they arise within our communities,” added Naomi.

“These awards acknowledge the commitment and dedication of young people in today’s society who see challenges as an opportunity to make a difference and provide solutions within their local communities, making them a better place.”

The 2020 Pramerica Spirit of Community finalists are:

Lidia Ballocchi, Sixth Year, Assumption Grammar School, Co. Down

Sasha Barrett-Ferris, Sixth Year, Sullivan Upper School, Co. Down

Gavin Bennett, Third Year, Ard Scoil Chiarain Naofa, Co. Offaly

Jemma Campbell Sixth Year, Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Co. Antrim

Rebecca Colley, Sixth Year, Castleknock Community College, Co. Dublin

Jessica Collins, Fourth Year, Skibbereen Community School, Co. Cork

Keira Culleton, Third year, Loreto College, Co Derry/Londonderry.

Jamie Duffy, Sixth Year, Beech Hill College, Co. Monaghan

Lauren Gaynor, Sixth Year, Loreto Grammar School, Co. Tyrone

Charlotte Gallaher, First Year, Our Lady’s School, Co. Dublin

Liadh Hanley, Sixth Year, St. Angela’s College, Co. Cork

Rebecca Irvine, Sixth Year, Carrickfergus Grammar School, Co. Antrim

Grainne McGlynn, Fourth Year, Rosses Community School, Co. Donegal

Julie Reddan, Sixth Year, Borrisokane Community College, Co. Tipperary

Jake Redmond, Sixth Year, Larkin Community, Co. Dublin

Aurora Riddiough, Fifth year, Ballycastle High School, Co. Antrim

Sophia Shally, Third Year, St Louis Community School, Co. Mayo

Aaron Smith, Sixth Year, St Louise’s Comprehensive College, Co. Antrim

Emma Smyth, Sixth Year, St Louis Grammar School, Co. Antrim

Teagan Stanley, Fifth Year, Newtown School, Co. Waterford

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