Giving back with Gaisce
Gaisce or The President’s Award, has been up and running in St Declan’s College for the last 6 years. It is Ireland’s National Challenge Award for young people and it is the country’s most prestigious and respected individual Award programme. Students participating in the Award set themselves a challenge in four areas. They must learn a new skill or improve on an existing one, they must participate in a physical activity and they must become involved in some voluntary work within their community. They must also undertake an adventure journey as part of a team. Most of the boys who decide to set themselves the challenge of achieving the Award are already involved in at least one or more of the activities required of them but there is always one section of the award which will stretch them and take them outside of their comfort zone. For many of them it is the voluntary work section of the Award which will do this. This is also the section of the award which they often find the most rewarding personally. The voluntary activities undertaken this year include coaching younger children in their local clubs, one young man is coaching young swimmers for the Special Olympics while others are helping coach first year teams in the school during their lunch breaks. Thanks to our young volunteers’ enthusiasm St Declan’s College now has a chess club, a music club and a table tennis club. Some of them are even teaching English to fellow students for whom English isn’t their first language. Other community activities include volunteering in community radio stations, working in animal shelters, helping elderly neighbours, playing the organ for their church choir, singing in the church choir and doing a Drugs Awareness Course so that they can in turn educate our first year students about the perils of taking drugs. All in all it has to be said that their participation in the Award programme is an enriching experience not only for themselves but also for those people who are lucky enough to benefit from their youthful enthusiasm and boundless energy. This year we have thirty six current and former students taking part in the Award, eighteen are going for their Bronze Award, fourteen are doing Silver and four are going for Gold. We wish them all every success.