What is the Youth Council?
The Donegal Youth Council is a group of 36 young people aged 12-17 years from all over the county, who identify issues and promote projects to improve the lives of young people in Donegal, and bring these key issues to the decision makers for change. The Youth Council aim to represent the views and opinions of the youth of Donegal who don’t have a vote, by building and strengthening links with people and organisations that impact on young people’s lives.
When did you become the youth council coordinator and why were you interested in the role?
I became the Coordinator in September 2016 and began the recruitment process of a new group of youth councillors, who are coming to the end of their 2 year term later this year. I actually began helping out with the Youth Council whenever my predecessor required help with events, as I always really loved the buzz in county meetings and events. I feel that the concept of the youth council is so exciting as the young people are given such amazing opportunities throughout their term.
What does a youth councillor do?
A youth councillor has the opportunity to attend adult committee meetings, present to their local county councillors in the municipal districts, organise events, raise awareness of key issues facing young people in Donegal and go on trips.
How is it decided what issues they work on?
The Donegal Youth Council host 150 young people at an Agenda Day at the start of their two year term. Young people from over 26 different schools, Youthreach centres and youth projects come together to put forward youth issues, participate in facilitated discussions and then propose and vote on issues they would like to see the Youth Council work on. The top 5 issues identified will form the work plan for the Youth Council, but there will also be a vote to determine the number one priority issue.
The key issues for 2016-2018 were: Sexual Health and Education, Facilities in Schools, Body Image, and Sports Recognition for Girls.
What would you say to a young person interested in running for youth council elections this year?
The youth council is a fantastic opportunity. Yes the process of election can be daunting, but it is definitely worth it. Put yourself forward. You will make friends from all across the county, and even nationally. Your confidence will grow so much, it’s great fun and it’s a really supportive environment. Also seeing how adult committees work prepares you for adult life. Young people bring vibrancy to meetings which is always welcomed.
What’s your background?
Prior to youth work I was a HR Manager within the Hotel & Catering Sector both in England and Ireland. I got in to Youth Work when I started as a volunteer in LOFT, and then I transferred to the Daybreak Programme (early or potential school leavers project) when I was doing a Community Development degree in Magee University. I was fortunate to secure a full time position in Daybreak Letterkenny and worked on the project for five years prior to the Youth Council.
Why do you do it?
I have seen the current youth councillors develop so much. Their confidence, the ability to voice their opinions and talk to adult decision makers with ease is amazing. Young people generally receive bad press and I wish people could see the work and commitment that this group of young people put into this project. When we did the intergenerational work with the Older People’s council the older people really enjoyed working with the young people and it was lovely to see the interaction between the two generations. It’s moments like this that are so inspiring.
What has been your highlight from the past 2 years?
I have so many highlights from the last two years, so to narrow it down to one is extremely difficult. Listening to the youth council present to their local County Councillors was so impressive though. Young people as young as 14 standing up and highlighting issues facing them blew me away. When young people put themselves forward to take part in a task that they are nervous about and they overcome their fears it is so amazing to see. When the Youth council hosted their Body Image and Sexual Health events I was so proud of them as they really put 100% effort into it. I would definitely need longer to go through all my highlights, so to sum up: an amazing experience with an amazing group of young people.
Donegal Youth Council is funded by the Donegal County Council, HSE Health Promotion and the Department of Children & Youth Affairs and is co-ordinated by the Donegal Youth Service at local level.
For more information about Donegal Youth Council, you can call DYC Coordinator Carlyn Maguire on: (074) 91 29630, follow the Donegal Youth Council on Facebook, e-mail email@example.com, or check out the DYC page on the national Comhairle Na Nog website.
This article was written by Layla
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