A group of young people who never dreamed that they would get the chance to study at university have been given a unique opportunity.
As part of a new initiative which started last Tuesday (September 29), the 12 young people will take part in a programme at Ulster University.
‘United For Change’ which has been organised by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, aims to make a major impact to the lives of unemployed and educationally disengaged young people.
As part of the six month programme they will not only have the chance to study for nine weeks at the Ulster University Jordanstown campus, but will also get one to one mentoring, good relations training, peer leadership training and overseas experience.
There are young people from all over the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough taking part in the cross-community programme. So far they have engaged in team-building exercises, began accredited training at Ulster University, had a four day residential in Ballintoy and had learning days to a number of locations including Titanic Belfast.
Although the programme has only commenced, the young people involved have benefitted from it. Their preconceptions about different communities have been challenged and their confidence levels have been boosted.
Shannon Adams, 19, from Monkstown has gained a lot from the scheme and is thankful to be involved.
“I have enjoyed university and I’m so thankful for the opportunity. I also have made good friends and hope to keep the friendships when the programme is over. I would like to get a job when the programme is over and now have the confidence to go for an interview,” she said.
Launching the programme, Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: “I am delighted to be able to help launch this cross-community initiative. United Youth is all about providing flexible, high-quality, young-person-centred opportunities to 16–24 year olds who are not currently in education, employment or training,” he said.
Phil Glennon, the NIYF Coordinator of United For Change hopes the programme will inspire the young people who are taking part.
“Participants are learning through a wide range of learning opportunities including a full taste of university life. We are very hopeful that this programme will inspire, create change and leave a legacy with participants,” he said.