Youth Horizons was founded in 1987, by the late Dr. Kate Ganter(child and adolescent psychiatrist with the Lucena Clinic), Fr. Denis O Connor CSSR (medical doctor and curate in St. Thomas Parish, Jobstown) and Sr. Mairead Hughes SSL (teacher at Jobstown Community College), to address local community needs in West Tallaght, especially the lack of educational facilities for young people.
Their potential was not being developed due to the lack of spaces for homework, study, and support for personal development. Two vandalised houses were acquired, through voluntary fund raising, and then renovated with the help of local businesses and volunteers. The houses were chosen precisely because they were located in the heart of the residential community. From the beginning, the centre was rooted in and of the community, it emerged in response to the needs of that community, and it continues to adapt fluidly as those needs change.
The intention was to create a warm and welcoming place that nourished body, mind and spirit. For that reason, activities like music, chess, drama, filmmaking, cookery and crafts were provided and happy sounds emanated from Youth Horizons. Self-confidence flourished in these classes and students were able to go on to pursue careers in stage, screen, and restaurants.
When the Celtic Tiger roared, there was a new and pressing demand for young people to have educational attainments. However many young people were unable to cope with the rigidity of the formal educational system and then were excluded not just from education but from employment and a dignified role in Irish society. The young people themselves were well aware of their needs and approached Youth Horizons for guidance and support. Youth Horizons then responded by providing a pathway for these students to complete the two-year Leaving Cert cycle in seven subjects. That enabled many of our students to progress to Third Level education and to find suitable careers. These young graduates then became role models and pathfinders in their community, showing that it was possible to gain good degrees and get good jobs.
Youth Horizons provides counselling, career guidance and computer skills. We ensure that all complex forms like the CAO application are properly completed and we help students to navigate the bureaucracy. We are proud that our alumni now include computer engineers, teachers, midwives and chefs.
A major barrier to completing formal education was early parenthood which dramatically affected teenagers. To meet that challenge, we built an imaginative extension to incorporate an attractive and professionally run award winning early learning facility. This had a dual impact: the young parents completed their education, while also acquiring parenting support in an informal and supportive context. Our pre-school has gone from strength to strength and is now widely regarded as a major community asset.
We are now be at another inflection point. The school has noticeably quietened because students spend so much time on their phones. There is a need to encourage social engagement and to challenge ‘facts’ that emerge from the wilder shores of the internet. New problems are becoming apparent like on-line gambling and cyber-bullying. We also notice that our students do not engage in “family meal times” and have no experience of home cooking. To counteract these tendencies we want to expand their horizons again: We want to provide collaborative physical activities that require the students to work together as a team to overcome challenges. We want to provide new and enriching cultural experiences that can help young people to navigate their world, and also to be aware that there are many other worlds out there as well. We want to provide students with an opportunity to engage in cookery classes, which is a necessary life skill, and would also inform our students on the value of nutrition.
We need funding to continue to do what we have always done - helping young people find their place in the world, addressing community needs, while remaining open, flexible and agile in our engagement.