Young people scoop top awards for championing nature

Tuesday 27th November 2018

YFCU members receiving their Young Environmental Leader AwardsYFCU members receiving their Young Environmental Leader Awards

Young people’s outstanding efforts in championing nature across Northern Ireland were recognised at the annual Grassroots Challenge Awards ceremony at Craigavon Civic Centre last week

Over the last year, over 3000 young people, aged 11 to 25, from Young Farmers’ Clubs, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award groups and special schools rolled up their sleeves to carry out 236 projects to help nature thrive in their local area, as part of the Grassroots Challenge project, led by Ulster Wildlife.

From making homes for birds and hedgehogs to planting trees and transforming local spaces into vital wildlife havens, the young people have unleashed their passion, creativity and potential to make a real difference to their environment and community around them.

The awards ceremony, hosted by inspiring young people from the Grassroots Challenge Youth Forum, saw thirteen young people presented with Young Environmental Leader Awards. Group awards were also awarded to Collone Young Farmers’ Club for improving their local environment; Omagh Explorer Scouts Club for monitoring wildlife as part of their Gold Award Expedition, and to Killard House School in Donaghadee for transforming their school grounds into an eco-garden.








Karl Castles from Ulidia College, who received a Duke of Edinburgh young environmental leader award, said: “This award has really set-me-up and I am now Eco Committee Chairperson at Ulidia as a result of taking part in the Grassroots Challenge. It has really made me feel more determined, inspired and dedicated to protecting the environment around us.”

Curtis Woods from Killard House School, who also scooped an environmental leader award, said: "I am so proud. I love the outdoors and animals and like helping the little ones learn more. I've never won an award before. I love it - thank you so much!”

Ian Walker from Collone YFC said: “Getting a reward for all the work and effort you put in, made it really worth it."

Alexey Janes, Grassroots Project Coordinator with Ulster Wildlife, said: “A huge well done to everyone - they should be so proud of themselves. Helping young people make a difference to their local environment is what the Grassroots Challenge is all about, so it is fantastic to see so many young people with the drive, energy and passion step up and change things for the better. Every generation has what it takes to create real positive change. It is simply a matter of having the confidence and support to do so and over the next three years, we hope to encourage thousands more young people to take action for nature.”

Grassroots Challenge Youth Award Winners 2018

Young Environmental Leaders of the Year - Young Farmers’ Clubs
Rebecca Connor – Mourne YFC
Sarah Dorman – Spa YFC
Amy Richardson – Bleary YFC
Sophie Hawthorne – Collone YFC
Ian Walker – Collone YFC
Stephanie McIlroy – Gleno Valley YFC
Emily Lyle – Gleno Valley YFC

Young Environmental Leaders of the Year - Duke of Edinburgh’s Award/Joint Award Initiative group members

Jack Gillespie - Ulidia College
Karl Castles - Ulidia College
Eimear McCann – Drummaul Church of Ireland Girl Guides

Young Environmental Leaders of the Year - Special School project team

Simon Orr – Donard School
Warren Morrison – Park School
Curtis Woods – Killard House School

Best Young Farmers’ Club Activity
Collone YFC 

Best Duke of Edinburgh’s Award/Joint Award Initiative Activity
Omagh Explorer Scouts 

Best Special School Activity
Killard House School

The Grassroots Challenge will see over 5,000 young people skilled-up to lead wildlife projects in their local communities by 2020. Young people are also given the opportunity to complete an accredited LANTRA environmental qualification, sign up for the Eco-Club programme run by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and participate in democracy education sessions at Stormont with Northern Ireland Environment Link.

The Grassroots Challenge is part of Our Bright Future, a programme of 31 projects across the UK co-ordinated by the Wildlife Trusts and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. 


Tagged with: Volunteering, Big Lottery Fund, Environment, Nature, Our Bright Future, Youth awards