The President’s Award is the most prestigious award in Ireland for young people aged 15 to 25. Gaisce is an old Irish word which means ‘a great achievement’. The award programme is a challenge from the President of Ireland to young people to set and pursue personal goals in four different areas of activity: Community Involvement, Personal Skills, Physical Recreation and an Adventure Journey.

Each year all Transition Year students sign up to undertake the Gaisce Bronze Medal Award. The Bronze award involves the students doing 13 hours community service, 13 hours on developing a new personal skill and 13 hours participating in a new physical activity. They will also have to do an overnight adventure trip as well as an additional 13 hours of their choice from the above.

Examples of community involvement are working in local charity shops, volunteering in local community groups, and working in mentoring programmes within the school. Examples of new personal skills involve students learning a musical instrument or sport, learning sign language, or completing a first aid course. Students can do a range of activities to fulfil their physical recreation requirement such as attending the gym, joining a new sports team, or doing a new activity such as dance or yoga. All activities are done outside of school hours and in the students’ own time.

The adventure journey takes the students on a two-day hike along the Wicklow Way from Roundwood to Marley Park, stopping overnight in Knockree Youth Hostel. This is an enjoyable 40km walk at roughly 20km per day. Gaisce is a worthwhile and enjoyable activity that teaches students to be aware of broader issues in the community and to develop themselves physically and socially. Over the past number of years, we have maintained a high number of Bronze Award medallists and I hope the current TY group will continue in this vein.