Three young Donegal people have been hailed as the outstanding young leaders of tomorrow, here are their stories:
The honorees were recognised as being among the most ‘outstanding’ in Ireland at a glittering JCI Ireland ceremony in Harvey’s Point Hotel last weekend.
Jennifer Doherty from Buncrana, Eoin Callaghan (Newton) and Aoife Gillespie (Stranorlar) were honoured by Junior Chamber International (JCI) at their Ten Outstanding Young People (TOYP) awards.
The prestigious event was hosted in the county for the first time by the Donegal branch of JCI, a global organisation aimed at focusing on leadership, entrepreneurship and active citizenship.
One of the honorees of the National Ten Outstanding Young Person Awards 2017 who impressed most was Jennifer Doherty, who was accompanied by her guide dog, Sibyl.
The young Buncrana woman, who is blind from birth, has never let her ‘disability’ hold her back. She obtained a degree from Queen’s University, Belfast, and, in recent months, set up her own business.
Jennifer has also successfully undergone a number of challenges in aid of local charities, including a skydive in 2014 in aid of the Donegal Centre of Independent Living (DCIL). She is an advocate for people with disabilities, giving them a voice when it comes issues such as accessibility and equality. She lives independently in her own home.
Jennifer created a disability awareness program which DCIL delivers to schools around Donegal. She climbed Sliabh Liag with some JCI members before the Gala dinner and they all fell in love with her ‘can do anything’ character and wit. Jennifer has an infectious appetite for life and says “I had no real reason to get out of stuff that everyone else was doing.”
Like Jennifer, Eoin Callaghan was honoured in the Personal Improvement and/or Accomplishment category.
He has been living with Asperger’s syndrome since diagnosis at eight years old. This is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.
Eoin, however, has a love of all things musical and theatre. He is now doing what he loves best, starring on stage in various productions throughout the northwest and is a member of the Fresh Academy of Performing Arts, Londonderry Musical Society and Letterkenny Musical Society (LMS).
He is also the co-founder of Row B Productions in Letterkenny, a theatre company he set up along with a friend to cater for the youth of the area. There are no auditions at Row B, everyone is welcome and the aim of the group is inclusion.
Academically, Eoin has come through against the odds and has gone on to third level education where he is flourishing.
He has starred in many productions and most recently played the prominent lead role of The Scarecrow in the LMS production of the The Wizard of Oz, running a six night sell-out show in An Grianan Theatre. Eoin says, “Why wait until the future, when you can do it now”.
The third Donegal winner was Aoife Gillespie from Stranorlar, who was in the Humanitarian and/or Voluntary Leadership category.
A sixth year student at St Columba’s College, she has been a volunteer for ‘many years’ and is motivated by making a difference to the lives of others.
Having personally witnessed the tragic impact of cyber bullying and road crashes in her local area, Aoife used the impact that these events had on her to raise awareness among students, politicians and other organisations nationally. She is the current deputy mayor of the Donegal Youth Council (DYC).
Aoife has worked with numerous organisations including the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to highlight mental health issues, internet and road safety.
Aoife received a Certificate of Achievement from the Mayor of Donegal County Council, Terence Slowey, for her role as a representative on DYC. As well a preparing for her Leaving Cert’, she works two jobs and played for Donegal U17 ladies GAA team.
Young people from all walks of life were nominated for the JCI awards which serve to recognise individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 who excel in their chosen fields and create positive change.
Guests at the ceremony last Saturday night left feeling inspired, amazed, and extremely humbled by the stories from the winners.
Sponsored by AIB, all ten winners received personalised trophies and will now be put forward to the TOYP World Awards in November. Those selected will be flown to Amsterdam and honoured during the 2017 JCI World Congress.
JCI Ireland President Dr Adrian Corcoran commented, “By recognising outstanding young people, JCI raises the status of socially responsible leaders across the world. The honorees motivate their peers to seek excellence and serve others.
Their stories of discovery, determination and ingenuity inspire young people to be better leaders and create a better society, something our own country needs now more than ever.”