two Wexford students have received national awards in recognition of the exemplary work they carry out in their local communities.
Sophie Kelly, from Gorey, a student at the Presentation School, in Wexford town, and Nathan Goodall, from Enniscorthy Vocational College, were selected from hundreds of volunteers to receive the 2015 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards.
In addition, Sophie, along with Michael Keohane, a student from Skibbereen, were named All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year and will now travel on an all-expenses trip to Washington D.C. to meet youth volunteers from across America and to take part in the Prudential Spirit of the Community awards ceremony.
Sophie and Michael each received a gold medal and €1,000 for the charity of their choice during the awards night at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa as they and the 18 other finalists were honoured.
Former New Zealand rugby player, coach and pundit Brent Pope, who has supported and empowered others with his charitable work, presented each of the volunteers with their medallions.
Since the loss of her sister to suicide, Sophie became passionate about raising awareness of how common mental illness can be tackled through promoting the message 'It's OK Not to Feel OK'.
In 2013, Sophie undertook a training week at St Patrick's mental health hospital.
Since then, she has held a 'Walk in my Shoes' day at her own school as well as introducing it to other schools throughout Wexford. The event encourages students and teachers alike to wear mismatched shoes in order to appreciate how those suffering from mental illness feel when being judged by others.
Sophie is a keen participant in Cycle against Suicide (CAS), having cycled both in this event and their monthly spin off programmes.
Receiving €500 for a charity of his choice and a gold medallion from Brent Pope, Nathan said he was honoured to be recognised at the awards.
As a wheelchair user himself, third-year student Nathan has first-hand experience of the life changes that such an organisation can make to people's lives.
'My aim was to give something back to the organisation that had helped me so I formed a group of students to produce, publish and sell a school magazine to raise money for the Wexford branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association,' he said.
The Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards, the only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind, recognises young people for their motivation, service and impact on their local community across the island of Ireland.
The programme is run in partnership with The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) and recognises outstanding acts of volunteerism by our youth.