A group of young people from Athy, Co Kildare, have been recognised for overcoming a range of challenges in their lives with a special awards ceremony organised by Ireland’s leading social justice charity, Extern.

Six young men, all currently engaged on Extern’s Athy-based Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP), have been presented with certificates for a range of achievements, including completion of the Extern Summer Programme, and a Kayaking Skills Course.

Extern’s GYDP engages with young people, aged 12-17, who are at risk of, or who are involved in, anti-social and/or criminal behaviour. It provides them with targeted supports to stop their offending and become positive contributors to society.

The ceremony was held on Tuesday evening, October 15th, at Athy Church of Ireland Centre, with guests in attendance including representatives from An Garda Síochána, the Athy Town Promoters, and local schools, among others.

The ceremony also included the presentation of flower boxes to representatives of Woodstock Forum Community House, as well as a look at some of the project work completed by the young people, including a Halloween project, a Christmas project and a number of spray-painting works from the summer programme.

The Athy GYDP is one of four such programmes currently being run by Extern, with others based in Naas, Limerick and Raheny in north Dublin. Garda Youth Diversion Projects are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020.

The projects offer the young participants vital new opportunities for education, employment, and training, as well as sport, art, music and other activities which contribute to improving employability. Projects are specifically located in areas of social disadvantage and marginalisation, where there are high volumes of youth crime and where there is a history of early school leaving and generational unemployment.

The programme also places great importance on working with local residents, community groups, local partnerships, community centres and any other local services relevant to the young people’s needs.

Charlie Mack, CEO of Extern, said: “We are justly proud of the young people who take part in our GYDP projects, as it shows how committed they are to transforming their lives – and their communities – for the better. These young men have all shown that they have what it takes to complete the programme, and I look forward to seeing them take the next step on a bright new path. I wish them all the very best for the future.”

For further details on Extern’s GYDP programmes and the charity’s other work across Ireland, please log on to www.extern.org