Children and Youth Shortlist 2019

Sandra Maguire

CoderDojo, Dublin.

At CoderDojo, children aged 7 to 17 learn skills such as building a website, creating an app or a game, and explore technology in an informal, creative, and social environment called a “Dojo”. Sandra Maguire founded CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire in 2013 – one of the first 50 Dojos. Since then, several hundred local children have been introduced to, and developed their knowledge of, coding at the sessions which run during school term times. Aside from handling the administration of the Dojo, Sandra also recruits new mentors.

At the weekly sessions, Sandra encourages/persuades children to show their work on the big screen, which is of enormous benefit in developing confidence and presentation skills. With equal number of places for girls and boys in CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire, children are learning from an early age that females working in technology is normal, acceptable, and even desirable! The children at CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire are making friends with children who they might not have met at school; they are a very diverse bunch; not including coding languages, they have 12 languages between them!

In order to help local children who are not CoderDojo members have their first experience of coding, Sandra has organised mentors to help out by running pop-up Dojo sessions at various local events. Occasionally a child won’t have a laptop, it might be old or broken or Mum/Dad might need it. Some laptops have been donated to CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire and Sandra will charge one up to bring along to the session at IADT at short notice. Laptops have been given on loan to children longer term in cases where their skills are far in advance of what their laptop can cope with. No child need miss out on CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire for the lack of a laptop!

Given the emerging popularity of robotics, it can be more of a challenge to supply equipment other than laptops. Sandra has successfully applied for County Council grants with which to buy items such as Micro:bits and accessories, meaning the children can extend their knowledge without Mum or Dad having to worry about how to fund these purchases.

Sandra also volunteers with CoderDojo at a national and international level, being Chairperson of CoderDojo Ireland and having been on the implementation team of Coolest Projects International for a number of years.

Patrick Mills

Solas Project Justice Team, Dublin

Paddy paved a way for Solas Project to be granted acceptance into Wheatfield prison where Solas Project work with young men from 17 – 24 years, due to his wealth of experience in this area. He is always ready and waiting at the prison for Solas Project staff, he shows up week after week and can be called on in times of emergencies. He finds the time to make each young person feel listened to and respected. He is always a great support for Solas Project staff who are working in the prison which can be a hostile environment.

Everybody in the prison knows Paddy, both young and old. He is respected by the young people in there. This gives Solas Project a great head start in the prison as being seen with Paddy gives credibility. This means they can reach a higher number of young people and offer our support straight away. Paddy goes above and beyond for the young people. He has set up interviews for courses and jobs for the young people upon release. He attends court with them. He listens to them when nobody else is willing to. And with his great sense of humour he can make the dullest day seem bright.

Mick Whelan

Foróige, Tipperary.

Mick is currently volunteering as a Big Brother in the Foróige youth mentoring programme, Big Brother Big Sister and also helps out at their youth club as a volunteer when needed. Mick has consistently met with his Little Brother on a weekly basis since they were matched almost three years. Mick’s Little Brother has gone through a number of strenuous changes in his personal life, especially in the past 12 months, and Mick has gone above and beyond to ensure that he remains a consistent positive male role model in this young person’s life when he needs it the most.

Mick is quick to link in with Foróige staff members if he has any concerns about his Little Brother and will always look for extra support and advice when needed. Mick’s input is highly valued by staff members who are also working with this young person as they are aware that he has a bond with the young person and can provide further insight into how we can best meet this young person’s needs.

The passion Mick has shown in his role as a positive male role model in this young person’s life is what stands out the most. Mick understood that the needs of his Little Brother were complex at times and he had a strong desire to help meet those needs, regardless of how difficult this was at times. Mick has shown great enthusiasm throughout his time as a Big Brother and never gave up on the young person. A steady and consistent presence in this young person’s life has brought him to a better place, one in which he can engage with society in a positive manner, something that had been absent in the years before this pair were matched as Brothers in the youth mentoring programme.