Lifford woman Katie Anderson spoke to Donegal Daily about how Youthreach helped her reach her full potential and has set her on the right track towards her dream career.
A busy woman, Katie (20) is currently working very hard towards completing her final topics in her Level 4 QQI, as well as volunteering at Donegal Donkey Sanctuary.
Leaving school at 16, Katie studied Travel and Tourism in the Northwest Regional College, but after beginning the course she realised it wasn’t for her.
“Once I had finished my GCSEs I was indecisive whether to continue on with my A-Levels or to go to North West Regional College, in the end I decided that the NWRC was the best choice for me due to the use of coursework instead of exams.”
After seeing Youthreach advertised on social media and conducting some research, Katie enrolled – and hasn’t looked back since.
“I thought it seemed like a unique and fun way to get an education.”
“In my class there are currently 6 other learners studying their Level 4 QQI. There are also learners studying their Level 3 QQI and a class for Transition learners. In the centre, we have a mixture of practical and written subjects. Practical things such as Art and Dress Making down to our written work in the likes of Maths and Communications.”
Donegal ETB’s Youthreach programme provides Level 2, 3 and 4 education, training and work experience programmes to help young people between the ages of 16 and 20 to progress to employment or college.
Youthreach tutors employ a balanced programme of education, training and personal development whilst teaching.
“In the centre we have a total of 6 tutors. Each tutor has a different personality which makes them unique but one thing that makes them all similar is that in a time of need they would be right by your side. Our tutors don’t only teach us subjects, they also teach us how to better ourselves.
“Since I started Youthreach I have changed as a person, I find myself to be much more confident and approachable, I will be forever thankful to the learners and staff at Youthreach for this.
“We have a team working class once a week. When I first started Youthreach I was quite nervous to approach others but a year on and I could talk to anybody. Last year we held a Bake Sale in aid of Donegal Hospice. This required an awful lot of time, effort and preparation but it was worth it. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves on the day, including me. Working with my classmates has now become second nature to me.
“I love Art and Dress Making the most but I also like Communications, which is like studying English.”
As part of her course Katie has also gotten hands-on work experience – and due to this, has decided that either nursing or perhaps criminology are her callings.
“In July 2016 I went to Donegal Donkey Sanctuary. I loved it so much up there that I frequently go back. I also did work experience in Dano’s Pet Shop in Strabane, Co. Tyrone. This was such an amazing and informative experience, I absolutely adored getting hands-on with all the animals!”
After completing work experience at LUH, now feels surer than ever about studying nursing with the future goal of specialising in criminology.
“In February 2017 I did my work experience in Letterkenny University Hospital. This was so interesting and fun. I had such a good time there and found that I would like to work in that sector in the future.
“My work experience is definitely a benefit to my career prospects. I was indecisive whether I wanted to study nursing to become a criminologist or a veterinary nurse. After two placements being with animals and one being in the hospital, I feel that nursing is for me. I have grown to love animals even more than I did before though.”
Katie says that although there aren’t any particular challenges she has encountered in the programme, but when she struggles with mathematics, her tutor takes her through the problems and ensures she is up to speed.
“I have had a bit of trouble with my maths as it is definitely my weakest subject. My maths teacher is always there to help in a time of need, she has made me feel more confident during my Maths classes.”
The use of continuous assessment means that 100% of grades aren’t based off examinations, which takes the pressure off of learners.
“The programme is accessed through continuous intake, which means learners can join the programme at any stage throughout the year. Most of our work throughout the year is assessment based. In maths, we have two exams and in Information Technology we also have two exams. I feel much more comfortable doing it this way compared to the dreaded walk into the exam hall in school.
“Because of Youthreach, I will have gained a qualification I never had before, my Level 4 QQI and will be able to go on and do courses that I wouldn’t have been able to do before.
“I have obtained my certificate in First Aid which I am extremely proud of. I have also made some art pieces that I am super proud of also.”
Since beginning the programme, Katie says that countless opportunities have come her way – both career-wise and recreational!
“The Youthreach programme has given me tonnes of opportunities. Everything from gaining intelligence to zip lining 40 foot over a forest. We have done art competitions and given the chance to meet people from other centres. Youthreach has given me the opportunity to go out on work experience in places that I am interested in working in the future. This has given me the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge along the way that will stick with me forever.
“The allowance is very helpful, especially as I have just recently moved out with my partner so I am able to pay my rent and bills with this allowance. It also gives you a sense of freedom as you don’t have to keep asking your parents for money.”
After completion, Katie will begin her path towards fulfilling her dream job.
“My dream job in the future is to become either a nurse or a criminologist. To achieve this I am going to study nursing by doing a 2-year course when I am finished Youthreach this will then help me to get to university and to get into the area that I want to study.”
Youthreach offers young people a wide range of learning and training opportunities. A range of national QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) qualifications are provided including Level 2 General Learning, Level 3 Employability Skills and Level 4 General Learning.
Subjects, varying from centre to centre, include art and craft, catering, computers, childcare, hairdressing, health and fitness, literacy, numeracy, office skills, outdoor pursuits, personal development, woodcraft and many more.
Work experience is also an important part of the Youthreach programme. Other qualifications include basic food hygiene, ECDL, First Aid and Gaisce Awards.
Centres also provide an extensive health promotion programme covering areas such as positive mental health, sexual health, alcohol and drugs, road safety, citizenship and money management.
Fun is also an important part of Youthreach and regular trips and events such as an annual county-wide table quiz, MasterChef, pool, bowling and football competitions also take place throughout the year.
For more information you can follow this link: http://www.donegaletb.ie/schools-youth-services/youthreach/.
You can also call the Youthreach Centres on the following numbers:
Ballyshannon (Antoinette) – 071 98 51286
Buncrana/Glengad (Jayne) – 074 93 62466
Gortahork (Ciaran) – 074 91 35218
Letterkenny (Gillian) – 074 91 22585
Lifford (Aidan) – 074 91 42114
Youthreach is co-funded by the Irish Government, the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative as part of the ESF Programme for Employability Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.