SPARK Awards Recognise Students Social Enterprise Skills

Social Care Practice students from IT Sligo were among the prizewinners at the SPARK Student Social Enterprise Awards for 2015.

The SPARK awards reflect a shared philosophy of solution based learning advanced by the awards creators at DIT, IT Sligo and IT Tralee.

Geared towards facilitating and recognising social innovation and entrepreneurialism among third level students, the SPARK awards national finals were keenly contested by five most innovative and imaginative entries.

The awards were presented by Fr Peter McVerry, who has spent much of his life tackling the issues of social disadvantage, homelessness, drug misuse in Ireland.

Competing for a prize fund of €10,000, the eventual winners from the Institute of Technology, Tralee (represented by Mary Shanahan, Geraldine O’Mahony and Elaine Brew) developed a social enterprise initiative to meet the employment and cultural needs of migrant women in direct provision centres by way of providing a culinary training academy and multi-ethnic café in Tralee.

The runners-up, representing IT Sligo, unveiled a concept to develop an illustrated book together with a hand puppet encouraging children to express and communicate complex emotional issues they may be experiencing in their lives.

Commenting on this year’s competition Fr. Peter McVerry observed: “This year’s entries to the SPARK awards were of a very high quality. The enthusiasm and commitment of the contributors was outstanding, a lot of work had gone into researching, preparing and presenting the projects, and the projects themselves were extremely innovative and had the potential to  make a difference to the lives of those to whom they were directed”.

Five Institutes of Technology were represented at the national finals presenting innovative and creative solutions to a diverse range of societal issues including the provision of fitness facilities and supports for homeless people in Dublin; the development of a smart technology application to match homeless people’s daily accommodation needs with available space; identification of children’s intercultural awareness needs by way of a wonderfully illustrated and user-friendly book.

The SPARK awards are sponsored by Certified Public Accountants Ireland (CPAI). Mr Eamonn Siggins, Chief Executive, CPA Ireland, commented: “As an Irish accountancy body are always looking at wayITs in which we can engage in supporting innovative projects and competitions such as the SPARK Student Social Enterprise Awards. This competition embodies many of the values that we as an accountancy body would also like to be associated with.”

SPARK Awards advisory board member, Dr John Pender, said: “This year has been a most successful year for our social enterprise competition. CPAI’s continued generous sponsorship ensures that next year’s awards will attract a broader range of entrants from a growing number of Institutes of Technology and Universities.”

Photo caption:
IT Sligo Fourth Year Social Care Practice students, who were runners up in the Spark Awards for 2015. (L-R) Eamonn Siggins – CEO CPAI, Aisling O’Hara, Sandra Finan, Kaitlyn Phibin, Roisín McGlone – SPARK Advisory Board member , Dr John Pender – Senior Lecturer in Social Policy & Politics IT Sligo.

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