Newstart Education Centre held their annual Achievement Night recently marked by an event at Culturlann McAdam O Fiaich. Key speakers on the night included Paul Maskey, MP, Mairead McCafferty, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Commission for Children and Young People, John Barry, Chairperson of Newstart’s Board of Directors and Sean Greenan, a young person who has been attending the Centre since 2010.
2012 is Newstart’s twenty-third year of service as a community based organisation in West Belfast. As an Alternative Education Centre it provides a cross-community service for young people who are excluded or disengaged from the mainstream education system. Newstart has developed an innovative approach to the education of young people and a wraparound support service for participants and their families. The multidisciplinary team at Newstart work towards enabling young people to re-engage with education, to become independent and to re-integrate into the communities in which they live. It deals with issues such as drug and alcohol misuse, mental health difficulties, behavioural challenges, and domestic violence.
Newstart also offers lifelong learning with free adult Essential Skills, GCSE and A-Level classes, as well as outreach groups around the topics of Suicide Awareness and Prevention, the Community Pharmacy programme and personal development. Summer 2012 also saw learners achieve the best ever exam results in the Centre’s history, while a young person sponsored by Newstart took part in and won the annual Terry Enright challenge.
Mary Nolan, Centre Manager at Newstart, has expressed her enthusiasm at being at the helm of an organisation:
…which is centred around the needs of our learners at a time when our learners are going so far to achieve their learning potential is very inspiring to me and something which all the staff, young people and adult learners at Newstart can be very proud of.
Newstart has been very fortunate to be supported by a number of very generous funders and the Centre’s Annual Achievement night is also an opportunity to thank all of them. Firstly Newstart would like to acknowledge the Department of Employment and Learning who administer the European Social Fund, which has been funding programmes at Newstart and staff salaries for a number of years now. Newstart is also supported by Belfast Education and Library Board and the local schools who have been our referral partners and worked in partnership with us to provide off-site education to the young people at Newstart.
BBC Children in Need Northern Ireland has funded Newstart’s innovative resilience-building Jumpstart@Newstart programme since 2010 and have recently agreed to fund a full-time salary post for a Resilience Coach for a further year in 2013. Earlier this year Comic Relief awarded Newstart a grant to run the successful Jailbreak programme and Prince’s Trust supported one of Newstart’s young people, Beata Berkiova, with a Development Grant to fund her progression with music lessons. Newstart has also just received their first grant from Belfast City Council Good Relations Fund for the Open Air Education project which is running this month and next.
Newstart Education Centre is also delighted to be working with Community Arts Partnership’s Landmarks project this year, along with a group of young people from Include Youth. Landmarks’ coordinator Clare McComish remarked on the, ‘enthusiasm and creativity displayed by the young people’ at Newstart working with artist David Cunningham to produce fantastic self portraits. This work will be developed further into professional digital prints and become public art pieces for display in the Centre.