College students ‘Get Set to make a change’

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PUPILS at North Coast Integrated College are ensuring the London 2012 legacy lives on after rubbing shoulders with Olympic canoe slalom champion Etienne Stott in Belfast.

Despite the dust having settled on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games more than a year ago, memories of that unforgettable summer remain fresh at North Coast Integrated College.

A handful of pupils attended a Get Set to Make a Change workshop at Queen’s University Belfast where they were given expert advice from London 2012 gold medallist Stott and former Paralympic champion Natalie Jones.

They were also offered support and ideas to plan a community project as the scheme bids to encourage people to come together, using the Olympic and Paralympic Games as their inspiration.

Conor McGookin was one of those North Coast Integrated College pupils and, after meeting Stott and Jones in the flesh, he is now bursting with ideas for their plan to host a football tournament.

“We came down to the Get Set workshop to get ideas for a community project that will help us make a difference,” the 18-year-old said.

“We are thinking about hosting a football tournament for junior schools in our local area and we have picked up plenty of advice that will help us do that.

“At the workshop we organised some practice events and having done it there we are much more confident about doing it for real now.

“It was also really inspirational meeting Etienne and Natalie and seeing how hard work really does pay off.”

The Get Set to Make a Change programme will inspire almost 5,000 teenagers through 23 roadshows in 12 cities across the UK to deliver pledges of support to their community.

And, with his dream London 2012 still fresh, canoe slalom double champion Stott admitted it was an easy decision to throw his weight behind North Coast Integrated College and the innovative new programme.

“The excitement the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics generated was massive and for me it is important it is not confined to that year but leaks into society and brings change and makes a difference to people’s lives for as long as possible,” Stott said.

“I just want to help generate energy and excitement and I really want to just tell people that they can make a difference that not only makes you better but the people around you better to and that is the great thing about this programme.”

Through GSTMC, the British Olympic Foundation, in conjunction with the British Paralympic Association is using the spirit of the London Games to re-inspire young people across the UK. The project is being supported by a £2.5m grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Keeping the Spirit of 2012 Alive campaign.