Rotary Youth Leadership competition
This competition had over 1900 applications from students throughout Ireland, aged between 16-18 years. 24 students are the result of some 200 interviews all over Ireland. The winners are judged solely on their potential as leaders.
The week long programme starts in Belfast with a visit to Stormont. Here they meet MLA from all parties, and after a question and answer time they will sit in an assembly session. They have also included trips to Belfast City Hall, a visit to the European Parliament office in Dublin where they will prepare for their Euroscola day in Strasbourg on 23 February, then a visit the Dail to meet TD/Senators and sit in on debates in chambers.
Here is a list of students who participated : Jocelyn Gray, Jenny Keating, Mark Hanratty, Ciara Schmidt, Eimear O'Boyle, Rory Gibson, Roisin O'Neill, Feargal Hynes, Niamh O'Connor Byrne, Christopher Colwell, Samuel Tweed, Tuesday Howe, Deirdre Mullen, Fiona Guihen, Kerry Logan, Meadhbh Costello, Mary Portley, Danielle O'Riordan, Saoirse Houston, Conor O'Meara, Daire King, Kerrie Stevenson, John Devlin and Charlotte Higgins.
On Tuesday 9 February we went to Dublin, where we visited the Dail and Seanad Eireann, and spent a most enjoyable afternoon in the European Parliament Office, where we had the opportunity to meet with the District Governor for Rotary Ireland, workers in the parliament office and an employee from the British Embassy in Dublin.
Another great benefit of the experience, as young people form North and South, was to spend time in Ireland, getting to know each other, not just as winners of the competition, but also as individuals: young people form North and South, Catholics and Protestants alike. The trip was life changing in that we learnt things about each other which we had never known before, and were able to move away from stereotypical views and accept each other for who we really are.... human beings.
Without doubt, the most memorable part of the trip was our time spent in Strasbourg. The Euroscola Programme allowed us to meet young people from all over Europe and gave us a chance to have our say in what Europe is for us. For my part, I was particularly honoured to be chosen as chairperson for the EU Working Group on Future Policy Planning. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to chair a debate and then having to answer questions posed by the participants from all over Europe - a daunting but extremely rewarding task. At one stage, the person in charge had to ask us to stop being as forthcoming with ideas and questions so that others could have a chance.
The youth leadership changed each and every one of us. We left as 24 individuals and came back as friends. I don't think that you could ever imagine the looks that people gave us when they saw a group of smartly dressed 16 and 17 years olds discussing politics and government polices, most notably on education, whilst in the airport, on the plane, on public transport and even late at night in the hotel foyer. But that is what this trip has done. It has created a group or responsible young adults who care deeply for society and the world around them and who wait with great anticipation for the time when they will be able to do what they can to lead the world into a more successful and peaceful existence.
Here is a selection of their comments on Euroscola:
"Euroscola was by far the highlight for the whole group, the fact of sitting in seats of MEPs and using their voting systems as well as the working groups with students from all over Europe was considered an interesting and invaluable experience".
"Euroscola was the highlight of the trip as it gave me an opportunity to visit the European Parliament buildings, develop a greater knowledge of the operations of the European Parliament, and I felt it helped me develop my own skills; it gave me the confidence to put forward my opinion, whilst also letting me experience and helping me to understand the opinion of others".
"The Euroscola day was amazing! What a fantastic opportunity. The opening plenary session before the speakers and questions was quite long and dull, but apart from that I had a great day. I really enjoyed the debate in my sub-group about the proposals in the afternoon, it really gave me an idea into how difficult it is to be a politician".
"Euroscola was a highlight and it was fascinating listening to the chairman and other politicians answer our questions, although they were somewhat condescending and disrespectful of the Rotary Ireland team in particular. Debating with other students from across Europe was possibly the highlight of Euroscola day as they added a different perspective to old arguments, and even introduced one or two new arguments into the equation. Some of the arguments were repetitive, but this is unavoidable. Overall it was extremely worthwhile and interesting".
"Euroscola was the highlight of the trip. A really amazing experience. Once in a lifetime, to be able to get up and speak in the European Parliament as 16 years old".
"The whole Strasbourg part of the trip still feels surreal to even think back on it. I will never EVER forget it - it taught me so much about myself, dealing with other people, other nationalities and politics and the EU/EP/EC in general".
"Euroscola was an absolutely fantastic experience and it has not only increased my knowledge of the EU, but increased my want of knowledge on the EU. Coming away from the event I now view the EU in a different manner, as a large community that I can contribute to and have a place in".
"The highlight of the week for me was attending the day at Euroscola. The day was thoroughly enjoyable and informative, but most importantly I found that it has been in a sense 'inspirational'. I say this due to the fact that I left with a completely reformed view on Europe. It helped to develop my own sense of belonging to Europe and to see it as a large community that I can contribute to and have an active part in. The true benefit of the trip was not apparent to me until I returned to school and found my French class studying the topic of Europe. I found that this genuinely excited me (no easy feat on a Monday morning in school) to partake in discussions and work concerning the EU and I was more eager to share my thoughts, opinions and facts with my school friends and teacher about a topic that I now greatly value".
"Euroscola was amazing and I relished the opportunity to be President and speak to youths from all over Europe, listening and negotiating other people's ideas and opinions".
"Euroscola was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life! It was such a brilliant day.. The highlight was being chosen to chair a working group and getting to make a presentation to the entire chamber. Euroscola was a very surreal experience and very exciting. This trip has really opened my eyes as to how much of a role politics plays in our lives and I have now become more interested in it as a topic".
"Euroscola was my favourite part of the whole trip! I will never forget my time in the hemicycle, I have told everyone about it! I really appreciate and value the opportunity that we had to talk with other young people from the various EU member states. The afternoons debates were definitely a highlight and if I could I would do the whole experience again tomorrow! A once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget".