Inspirational youth receive awards for championing nature

Winners of Young Environmental Leader Awards 

Young people’s outstanding efforts to protect nature in Northern Ireland were recognised last week at the annual Grassroots Challenge Awards ceremony at Lisburn Civic Centre, with special guest Ferne Corrigan, TV wildlife presenter.

Over the last year, over 2800 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 166 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.

Highlights of Grassroots Challenge 2019

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 given to Lisnamurrican Young Farmers’ Club for improving their local environment; Wallace High School for pupil-led action on plastic waste as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and to Rosstulla School in Newtownabbey for transforming part of their school grounds into an eco-garden.

It was fantastic to be there and see the other people we were up against. The place was so posh and it made it feel more special.' said Mark McClelland from Rosstulla High School

It is great that the Grassroots Challenge has led to the creation of an Eco Club in school and a change in how we manage our waste,” said Avinash from Wallace High School. 

“This award has really encouraged me to continue establishing other conservation ideas….to enhance the 'roots' for future generations on our farm and through Crumlin Young Farmers’ Club,” said Leah Steele, winner of the Young Farmers’ Environmental Leader Award.

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 we hope to encourage thousands more young people to take action for nature.”

The Grassroots Challenge has already seen over 7,000 young people skilled-up to lead wildlife projects in their local communities. Young people are also given the opportunity to complete accredited training, 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. 


Grassroots Challenge Youth Award Winners 2019



Best Special School Activity

Rosstulla School, Newtownabbey

Best Duke of Edinburgh’s Award/Joint Award Initiative Activity

Wallace High School 

Best Young Farmers’ Club Activity

Lisnamurrican YFC

Overall Young Environmental Leader Award 2019 - Special Schools

Conor Williams – Knockevin School, Downpatrick

Overall Young Environmental Leader Award 2019 - Award Groups

Luke O’Donnell – Omagh Explorer Scouts

Overall Young Environmental Leader Award - Young Farmers

Leah Steele – Crumlin YFC

Other Young Environmental Leader Award Winners

Elizabeth Adair – Randalstown YFC

Natasha Adams – Lisnamurrican YFC

Ethan Bell - Omagh Explorer Scouts

Ryan Bainbridge – Beechlawn School

Darren Corbett – Mourne YFC

Leah Curran – Ulidia College

Lucy Giles – Omagh Explorer Scouts

Hayley-Rea Hopkins – Donaghadee YFC

Adam Kennedy – Collone YFC 

Brandon Magee - Rossmar School