Ten Adult Education initiatives recognised at annual STAR Awards

A voluntary group reigniting weaving traditions in the Liberties; a creative dance programme for individuals with intellectual disabilities; an access programme for prospective learners from the Traveller and Roma communities; and a sailing initiative for people in recovery from addiction are among the ten initiatives recognised at the annual STAR Awards, coordinated by AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation.

Hosted by Irish international footballers Stephanie Roche and Áine O’Gorman, the awards ceremony took place at the Cusack Suite in Croke Park, Dublin.

Established in 2006, AONTAS’ STAR Awards acknowledge outstanding adult learning initiatives across the island of Ireland. This year, 26 projects were nominated across five categories including Health and Wellbeing; Third-level Access and Engagement; Social Inclusion; Global Citizenship Education; and Learner Voice.

Additionally, two projects were presented with special recognition awards at the event in Croke Park:

  • New Futures Online Employability Programme in Dublin was awarded special recognition for a European Social Fund initiative. The programme empowers lone parents to take advantage of training opportunities and a personalised assessment and action plan.
  • Start360 Engage Women’s Services Recovery Group in Antrim was awarded special recognition for Shared Ireland and Peace Building, for their project supporting women connected with the justice system both in custody and in the community. The programme focuses on supporting women affected by paramilitarism who face increased community isolation, intimidation and violence.

Dearbháil Lawless, Chief Executive of AONTAS, commended the winners and nominees of this year’s STAR Awards: “We’ve been blown away by the standard of nominated projects this year, and by the sheer breadth of different communities that they support across the island of Ireland. Our winners today demonstrate the hugely important role that adult education can play to open up new opportunities and to bring communities together.”

The full list of winners is:

  • St. Vincent’s Centre Stand Up to Climate Change, winner of the Global Citizenship Education category.
  • Whidden Workshops: It’s Kushti to Rokker, winner of the Third-level Access and Engagement category.
  • Sailing Into Wellness, supported by Waterford Wexford ETB, winner of the Health and Wellbeing (Small/Medium) category.
  • Special Olympics Ireland - Health Promotion Programme, winner of the Health and Wellbeing (Large) category.
  • Digi Money, Advice NI, winner of the Social Inclusion (Small/Medium) category.
  • An Cosán’s Workability programme, winner of the Social Inclusion (Large) category.
  • The Liberties Weavers project, winner of the Learner Voice (Small/Medium) category.
  • DAVINA Project in Dublin, winner of the Learner Voice (Large) category.

AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2023

The STAR Awards ceremony marked the culmination of a week-long programme of events for the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival. An annual celebration of adult and community learning across the island of Ireland, the theme of this year’s festival was ‘Create Your World’.

Co-host of the award, Ireland footballer Stephanie Roche said: “It’s fantastic to see so much inspiring work happening in communities right across Ireland helping people to find a new passion or hobby, to build new skills or even to gain new qualifications. There’s so much available through adult education, there really is something for everyone! A huge congratulations to all the winners and to all the nominees of this year’s AONTAS STAR Awards.”

Co-host and teammate, Áine O’Gorman added: “When we think of education, we might automatically think of gaining qualifications and for many, that may be what they want from an adult education course. What we’ve seen from the nominees and winners today, is how many learners also gaining something very personal from adult education - through sport, dance, craft and wellbeing initiatives. Whether that’s a new hobby, meeting new people, or healing from something in their lives. Well done to everyone who’s shared their story!”

To find out more about this year’s winners or opportunities in adult education, visit www.aontas.com.

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