“These people are planting the seeds, they’re changemakers. This is a transformative project.” That’s according to an adult learner speaking about “The Whidden Workshops: It’s Kushti to Rokker,” an initiative that links people from Traveller and Roma communities with peers from their own communities to help increase access to university.
This project was just one of ten adult learning initiatives that were recognised at the annual AONTAS STAR Awards on Friday, 10th March, at a celebration ceremony in Croke Park in Dublin. Established in 2006, AONTAS’ STAR Awards acknowledge adult learning groups and projects that are really making an impact on people’s lives and in communities across the island of Ireland.
This year, 26 projects were nominated across five categories: Health and Wellbeing; Third-level Access and Engagement; Social Inclusion; Global Citizenship Education; and Learner Voice. The event was hosted by Irish international footballers Stephanie Roche and Áine O’Gorman, and kicked off with music from the Forever Young Chorus from Finglas.
Irish footballer Áine O'Gorman, AONTAS CEO Dearbháil Lawless, Irish footballer Stephanie Roche
Speaking at the event, O’Gorman spoke about the links between sports and education: “When you get out of your comfort zone, that’s when you grow and develop … Sport brings everyone together. It gives people opportunities. It’s the same with education.”
The winners from Start360 Engage Women’s Services Recovery Group
Two projects were also presented with special recognition awards at the event:
Speaking about the event, the winners, and the nominees at this year’s STAR Awards, Dearbháil Lawless, Chief Executive of AONTAS, said:
“We’ve been blown away by the standard of nominated projects this year, and by the sheer breadth of different communities that they support across the island of Ireland. Our winners today demonstrate the hugely important role that adult education can play to open up new opportunities and to bring communities together.”
The winners from the Digi Money project, an initiative of Advice NI
The STAR Awards is proudly supported by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), SAOLTA, Mental Health Ireland, Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN NI), the Open University in Ireland, and the European Social Fund.
The STAR Awards ceremony marked the culmination of a week-long programme of events for the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival. An annual celebration of adult and community learning across the island of Ireland, the theme of this year’s festival was “Create Your World”.
Co-host of the award, Ireland footballer Stephanie Roche said: “It’s fantastic to see so much inspiring work happening in communities right across Ireland helping people to find a new passion or hobby, to build new skills or even to gain new qualifications. There’s so much available through adult education, there really is something for everyone! A huge congratulations to all the winners and to all the nominees of this year’s AONTAS STAR Awards.”
Co-host and teammate, Áine O’Gorman added: “When we think of education, we might automatically think of gaining qualifications and for many, that may be what they want from an adult education course. What we’ve seen from the nominees and winners today, is how many learners also gaining something very personal from adult education - through sport, dance, craft and wellbeing initiatives. Whether that’s a new hobby, meeting new people, or healing from something in their lives. Well done to everyone who’s shared their story!”