Michael Ruane, Mayor, Newry and Mourne District Council with Tracy Brennan, Co-Ordinator YouthWorks Project, Youth Action NI and Martin McMillan, Assistant Director, Youth Action NI at the launch of the YouthWorks exhibition in Newry Library. Photograph: Columba O'HareYouthAction NI YouthWorks Project showcased their interactive art installation at Newry Library at the weekend.

The exhibition called ID saw the Gap Gallery in Newry Library turned into a grassy landscape complete with trees, campfire and a pond as well as a washing line, all the items filled with the young peoples aspirations and dreams. ID marked the culmination of a 26 week innovative education programme aimed at encouraging 16 and 17 year olds to re–engage with formal education and training.

Commenting on the unique project Youth Works Co-ordinator at YouthAction NI Tracy Brennan said: “Many of these young people believed they couldn’t achieve and had little or no skills. However, this art exhibition and installation is testament to the skills and abilities they possess. It’s great to see the young people involved taking pride in their work, showing the world the issues that affect them and taking steps to overcome the barriers in their lives.

Young people who completed the YouthWorks Project. Photograph: Columba O'HareThe Youth Works Programme is funded by the International Fund for Ireland and managed by the Youth Council for Northern Ireland (YCNI) on behalf of the Department of Education (DE).

The programme, delivered by YouthAction NI, supports young people to overcome individual barriers to learning, working with others and growing in confidence and also provides young people with an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of peace and reconciliation.

The project was targeted at young people who left school with no qualifications. Many participants are currently working towards gaining qualifications in English, Maths, Personal Development, Food Safety and First Aid.

Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “This innovative programme offers an opportunity for young people to build a more positive future and reach their full potential.

“The Youth Works Programme is part of the International Fund for Ireland’s Sharing in Education Programme which aims to facilitate integration, promote understanding and improve community relations in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties. Programmes like this are at the heart of the Fund’s efforts to build a more shared and peaceful future on the island of Ireland.”

Shannon Gibson, Danny McAnulty and Heather Gibson, three of the young people who took part in the Youth Action NI YouthWorks Project. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Gary O'Hare, centre with his father Kieran and brother Jack at the YouthWorks Project in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'HareEducation Minister John O’Dowd said: “The Youth Works programme is an excellent example of how young people who have not fulfilled their full potential within formal education can re-engage with their learning journey. The programme has enabled them to achieve a range of qualifications and take their first steps towards a positive future in further training or employment. 

“This effective and inspiring initiative will have a positive impact on young people’s lives right across the north of Ireland. I wish everyone who takes part in Youth Works all the very best as they seek to improve their life chances.”

All the young people were presented with a Certificate on the night to more their Completion of the project.

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