Northern Ireland news

Interface worker praises youth project for helping her get on degree course

L-R: Katieann Doran (Youth Action NI); Simon Fitzpatrick (Sales Director, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company); Minister Gordon Lyons, Cori Conlon (Youth Action NI), Dr Martin McMullan (Director, Youth Action NI); David Morgan Rice (Youth Action NI). Picture by Kelvin Boyes

A WOMAN who works with vulnerable young people at a north Belfast interface has praised a youth programme for helping her get a place on a degree course.

Katieann Doran (21), from east Belfast, is starting a degree in community youth work at Ulster University in September.

Ms Doran took part in YouthAction Northern Ireland's YouthEmpowered programme, now in its sixth year.

The programme will support 2,000 young people from across Northern Ireland into employment or training this year.

Ms Doran was studying for a certificate in social and behavioural science with Belfast Metropolitan College and volunteering before she got involved in YouthAction.

Thanks to YouthAction, she has a part-time job in a youth project at a north Belfast interface.

The project works with young people aged between 11 and 18.

"I do social and personal development programmes," she said.

"I did a programme about internet safety, teaching them about cyber-bullying and how to keep themselves safe.

"I did a programme on relationships, about positive and negative ones, how to identify toxic ones and how Covid and social media affects our relationships."

She said the project helps young people living on an interface.

"I work with a small group in Carrick Hill," she said.

"Because of Covid a lot of young people haven't experienced group work so it's trying to introduce that structure to them."

Ms Doran said the work was "really rewarding".

"Sometimes you do have your challenges but really that's just a learning experience too," she said.

"Even if you have a challenge it makes up for a more rewarding day."

Ms Doran said the YouthEmpowered programme helped her develop her confidence.

"It's helped me understand the theory and see it applied," she said.

"I probably wouldn't be doing a degree if it wasn't for the course."

She said learning about creativity through YouthEmpowered, including taking part in a dance performance, had changed her perspective.

"I realised that young people might not be able to express things through their words but they can express things through doing creative projects," she said.

This year's YouthEmpowered programme, supported by Coca-Cola, was launched at Stormont.

Dr Martin McMullan Director of YouthAction said: "#YouthEmpowered offers some of the most marginalised young people the opportunity to upskill and to access support that can help them plan a pathway to employment, building confidence and ultimately setting them up for a better future."

Economy minister Gordon Lyons also gave his support to the scheme.

"I welcome the continued partnership between Coca-Cola HBC and Youth Action NI and the opportunities that this presents for young people and those seeking to improve their opportunities for employment," he said.

"The programme offers a range of focussed and targeted activities to build confidence for young people and to help them build relationships with potential employers."

For more information on the project visit www.youthaction.org/youth-empowered

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