Allen McAdam (IFI), Cllr Colm Markey (Louth CoCo), Damian McKenna (New Leaf) and John Kieran (Dee Hub) at the New Leaf launch. PICTURE: ARTHUR KINAHAN
The ribbon was officially cut on the New Leaf programme - a personal youth development programme based in the Dee Hub in Ardee - last week.
Operated and managed by the Ardee & District Community Trust, co-ordinated by Damien McKenna and funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the programme is designed to help young people build and develop life skills that foster good relations, build confidence and resilience and enhance their employability skills.
Currently, there are 12 young people - all aged between 15 and 24 - from Ardee and across Mid-Louth partipicating in the programme.
The New Leaf programme was first established in 2017 - based mainly in the Dee Hub in Ardee.
According to co-ordinator Damien McKenna, the programme helps deliver individually tailored programmes which seek to address the specific needs of young people who have fallen out of education.
Figures show that in the Deeside School Completion Programme area, there are currently 20 school leavers in the region as well as 28 displaying school refusing behaviour.
Lorraine Trainor and Paula McCabe at the launch of the Leaf Programme in the Dee Hub in Ardee last week.
A further 62 students have missed 20 or more school days in the 2016/17 academic year. Nine young people are in care, while one is homeless.
In the first eight months of the programme’s existence, New Leaf has engaged with 14 young people in total - three of which have already progressed onto exciting new opportunities.
Among those in attendance at Tuesday’s event were Louth County Council cathaoirleach Colm Markey, his Ardee MunIcipal District colleague Dolores Minogue, DeeHub trustees Michael McCoy and John Kieran and IFI board member Allen McAdam.
Ahead of the offIcial ribbon cutting, two young people currently participating on the New Leaf programme - Michael Ward and Shauntel Humphreys - spoke about what the programme has done for them.
“I’ve been doing the New Leaf programme for about six months now and Damien has has helped me to gain more confidence,” Shauntel said.
“When I came in, I wasn’t in education. I just didn't want to go back to college. He’s helped me to think about it further. He’s got me into different programmes and got me interviews with different places to get back into education.”
Michael, who started on the programme in October, said he had learned new skills since becoming involved with New Leaf.
“It helps me keep out of trouble and keeps my record clean,” he said. “It shows me how to go further with my education and where to take it and where to go.”
Allen McAdam, board member of the IFI, was also present in Ardee to speak to those in attendance at the launch. He described Damien McKenna as “a very competant” member of staff, whilst speaking effusively about the project.
“We’re delighted to be associated with the project,” he said. “This project in eight short months has acheived a lot already. Credit is due to the voluntary committee here to put the work in and bring the project to reality.
“The New Leaf programme is designed to enable young people to involve themselves conciously and actively in their own development, through developing resilience and enhancing their education, training and employability capacity and prospects.
Allen McAdam (IFI, second right) cutting the tape to offically launch the New Leaf Programme with (l-r), participant Michael Ward, Damian McKenna and participant Shauntel Humphreys.
“The programe has proved a great success to date I would like to congratulate the participants and everyone involved for their enthusiastic support and participation.”
Damien McKenna took time out to thank the IFI and other stakeholders for their support in bringing the programme to fruition.
“We are indebted to the IFI for their support,” he said. “I would like to thank most sincerely Pat Flynn and all our local partners who have played a significant role in the success of the project to date.
“I look forward to working with everyone to build on this success in the future.”
The New Leaf co-ordinator also explained what was hoped to do with the programme in the future, now they have received a further financial boost.
“We want to expand the programme to meet the needs and the numbers in the mid-Louth area,” he said. “We also hope to establish an early prevention programme with links to Deeside School Completion and expand to include ‘detatched’ youth work.”