Pupils from Rosstulla School, in Newtownabbey, were honoured with an Ulster Wildlife Grassroots Challenge Award for their efforts to help nature thrive.
Over the last year, over 2,800 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, young people have unleashed their passion, creativity and potential to make a real difference to their environment and community around them.
The awards ceremony at Lisburn Civic Centre saw Rosstulla School recognised for transforming part of their school grounds into an eco-garden.
The pupils from the Jordanstown Road impressed judges with their design and creation of an eco-garden using an old bath tub, tyres and water bottles to grow wildflowers for pollinators, as well as establishing a vegetable plot. The project nurtured new friendships, skills and appreciation for the environment.
Pupil Mark McClelland said: “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.”
Alex Chambers added: “Yeah, it was great. Having my photo taken and holding the trophy meant a lot to me.”
Alexey Janes, Grassroots Project Coordinator with Ulster Wildlife, congratulated all the young people: “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 Fund.
For more information about the initiative, check out www.ulsterwildlife.org/grassroots