Gaisce: The President’s Award
The Presentation Secondary School, Loughboy, Kilkenny. Gaisce’s mission is to contribute to the development of all young people through the achievement of personal challenges.
Gaisce - The President's Award is the most prestigious Award in Ireland for young people aged 15 to 25 years. 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, with the support of an adult leader.
The Award programme challenges young people between 15 and 25 years of age to get involved in their community, set personal goals for themselves in terms of physical recreation and personal skill and undertake an adventure journey as a member of a team. There are three separate awards; Bronze, Silver or Gold with the level of effort and maturity required increasing as a participant moves towards the Gold Award. Participation in the Award affords a young person the opportunity to grow and develop with the assistance and support of a President’s Award Leader (PAL) during that vital transition period from young person to young adult. Gold Awards are presented annually by the President at Dublin Castle with Bronze and Silver Awards being presented locally and regionally by a range of high profile people and Gaisce staff. Each participant receives a certificate signed by the President, a medal and a lapel pin.
History of the Programme:
The Award programme was established in 1985, International Youth Year, by the Government as a challenge from the President of Ireland to young people to set and pursue personal goals in Community Involvement, Personal Skills, Physical Recreation and an Adventure Journey with the support of an adult leader. The Award was launched in Áras an Uachtaráin in October 1985 by the President, Dr. Patrick J. Hillery who was the Award’s founding patron.
Initially the Award was piloted in five areas; Monaghan, Galway, Kilkenny, Cork city and north Dublin with 300 participants. In 1988 the Award was extended to the 26 counties with almost 3,000 participants. In 2005 under an agreement, initiated by the Award patron in Ireland and the UK, and brokered by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Award Association, Gaisce became available to young people in Northern Ireland under the Joint Award initiative.
The Award is operated by almost 1,200 volunteer adult President’s Award Leaders (PALs), who are trained free of charge and supported by Gaisce staff. The PAL acts as mentor, advisor, supporter and even as an Anam Chara to the participants. A child protection policy is in place which involves Garda vetting and refereeing of all PAL volunteers.
At present there are girls, mainly in Transition Year, participating in the Gaisce programme in Presentation Secondary School, Loughboy. They are completing a wide range of different skills and activities and learning new skills to complete their programme. At Bronze level, each girl must complete 13 weeks at community work, personal skills and physical activities. Then she must complete an extra 13 weeks in one of the three areas. Each girl has two years to complete her award. If she completes her Bronze Award then she is given accreditation for her Silver Award in the future. The Silver Award is for 52 weeks in each area. There are a number of students in the process of completing their Silver Awards in Fifth year in Presentation, Loughboy. Each participant has until she is 25 years to complete the top Award at the Gold level.