Green teens from Ennistymon Vocational School scooped the Senior ECO Community Development Award with their project The River Boys at the 13th annual ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalist Awards finalist showcase and awards ceremony last week.
More than 600 young people attended along with Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children Youth Affairs, Andrew Montague, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Duncan Stewart, ECO-Eye Productions, and master of ceremonies, Stephen Byrne, RTÉ presenter.
The enthusiastic green-minded teens were amongst the 60 lucky groups who were selected for the finals from almost 4,000 young people throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland at regional Dragons’ Den style ECO-Dens.
The winning project from Ennistymon Vocational School inspired the judges with their project The River Boys which promoted the local natural amenity of River Inagh by developing a new riverside walkway with new information boards and installation of recycled benches.
The group comprised Eileen Hayes, Noreen Hayes, Cathal Hane, Alan O’Connor, Sinead Collins, Orla Heuston, Aoife Casey, Sean Nagle, Jessica Power and John Dilton. As part of the project they contacted local business people and the Action Community Group for help.
They are working to replace the outdated riverside information board with one which will promote the types of fish and wildlife in the region, a hardwood and softwood tree-spotter’s guide, and a history of the Falls Hotel. They are also in the process of putting in recycled benches along the river and already have interested groups who are willing to sponsor their construction. When it is completed The River Boys hope to have a fully defined walkway that both locals and tourists can utilise.
“I am extremely impressed by all the young environmentalists participating in this year’s awards,” said Elaine Nevin, national director of ECO-UNESCO.
“All of the young people have shown tremendous creativity and innovation in their approach to protecting the environment and promoting environmental awareness among their peers, their schools, youth groups and the community as a whole. We have received high quality projects and we are delighted to run this programme to recognise and reward young people’s achievements”.
President Michael D Higgins also commended the students.
“It is heartening to witness the levels of interest and passion exhibited by so many young people in the future of the environment that we all share. This is an area of tremendous importance and it is reassuring that the motivators and leaders of tomorrow have such a collaborative ethos and have displayed such energy and innovation” he said.
Before the presentation young environmentalists showcased their ECO-Action project at a public exhibition. ECO-UNESCO also provided green-themed activities including creative recycling workshops, a Rio+20 Zone where young people explored their ideas about the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development and an ECO-Talent Zone, where visitors were entertained by inspiring youth performances.
The annual awards programme run by ECO-UNESCO, Ireland’s environmental education and youth organisation, recognises and rewards young people that carry out local environmental action projects. The programme has provided thousands of young people, aged 10 -18, an opportunity to take action and raise awareness in their own community on issues that matter the most to them.