RYA Northern Ireland’s Youth Forum began in 2019 as a pilot project and was a partnership with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.
The first of its kind within the RYA, clubs across Northern Ireland were represented with young people signing up to develop leadership and personal development skills to help future proof the sport for years to come.
Throughout the year, RYA Northern Ireland brought the young people together, consulted with them on their opinions about the sport, listened to their voices and acted on their feedback.
Former Chair of RYA Northern Ireland, Jackie Patton led the project. She explains: “In order to future proof our clubs we need to get a younger age group to engage, commit and see something of value. They also need to know that they have a voice within their club and the sport and that their opinion matters.”
Jackie adds: “After working closely with our Youth Forum for a year, we now have a group of young people committed to RYA. They have more knowledge and understanding of the organisation and will share their learning in many settings, such as school.
“The young people have brought many new ideas, which we wouldn't have known about before. If they are supported, these young people are the future Commodores, Board members, Race Officers of our sport.
“They have demonstrated a commitment to their sport, despite a world-wide pandemic and have gained new skills and are more confident. These are skills for life.”
At the celebration event, many people turned out to give their support and thanks to the Youth Forum. This included the Chair of RYA, the RYA Northern Ireland Chair, RYA Northern Ireland’s Chief Operating Officer, RYA Northern Ireland Board Members and staff members, the Deputy Director of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum and other staff members, as well as the Youth Development Officer from Ulster Hockey and the family of many of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum members.
During the event, which was led by Jackie Patton and the Youth Forum members, the young people talked about their experience, showed a video and some ‘jam boards’ which highlighted all of their feedback as participants of the Forum.
Talking about her experience, Youth Forum member Abbie Brown, commented: “The Youth Forum has benefited me as it allows youths to have ideas. It is clear that when they work with adults who listen, great things happen.
“It has given the me the confidence in expressing my voice and option. In addition it has shown me on how to take constructive criticism.”
A highlight of the event was a presentation ceremony by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum. The young people were praised for their hard work and dedication and awarded a certificate.
Commenting on the progress the Youth Forum members made throughout the year, Paul Dynes from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, said: “The members of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum are inspirational. Their commitment, motivation and desire to make a positive impact on their organisations is to be celebrated and praised.”
Looking ahead to the future, Jackie Patton is hopeful that the skills that the young people have developed through the Youth Forum, will serve them well for years to come. She comments: “No matter what happens now or in the future the young people should be proud of what has been achieved within this leadership programme, the first of its kind in our sport.
“I hope they will take all that they have learned and put it into practice in their Clubs. It is an ambition to have created young ambassadors for our sport, and that they will keep connections as they go through life.”
She concludes: “As a young person, I never believed I would be Chair of RYA Northern Ireland, or even sit on a Committee, but it happened. I hope our young people will see that such positions are available to them and so much more besides if they choose. This will be the measure of success. I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Youth Forum in Belfast and its professional youth work team who helped us make it happen.”