THE Northern Ireland Ice Academy welcomed its second intake of students this evening, with 20 care experienced young people taking to the ice for the first time with the Stena Line Belfast Giants.

Over the next six months the young people will develop a wide range of new skills and attributes that seek to improve life chances.

The Academy programme includes ice sessions with the Belfast Giants, coupled with professional ‘off the ice’ training, including sessions in: communications; diversity; innovation; and skills training.

At the end of the Academy, our students will graduate in style, as we officially recognise them as the 2018/19 Community Giants.

The Ice Academy has been funded by the Department for Communities (DfC) and the Odyssey Trust as part of the Executive’s Together: Building a United Community Strategy.

Project partner Include Youth, will provide ongoing mentoring support to help build self-esteem, confidence and resilience as the young people transition into adulthood.

Speaking at the launch of the Odyssey Ice Academy Kathryn Hill, Director of Active Communities Division at DfC, said:

“The Department is hugely excited to support this unique project for a second year.

“The Ice Academy represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for 20 young people to develop important life skills, with the support and inspiration of the iconic Belfast Giants.

“Through enthusiastic participation, this year’s students will begin to remove barriers which currently exclude them from wider community life.

“Our 20 students will graduate with a greater understanding of other religious, political and ethnic communities, and will have developed a set of skills that will enable them to make a real difference to their lives.”

Tyler Burns from the Class of 18-19 said:

“We are all so excited to have been selected for the Odyssey Ice Academy class of 18-19.

“This is an opportunity to make new friends and we are both excited and a little apprehensive to be getting on the ice with the Belfast Giants at The SSE Arena, Belfast today.”

Wendy Langham, Head of Social Affairs at Odyssey Trust, said:

“We piloted the idea of an Ice Academy at the start of the year and it was a huge success, with 14 young people graduating in March.

“We are confident that together we will be able to deliver a programme which will lead on to new opportunities for the cohort of 20 joining us this year.”

Paddy Mooney, Director of Include Youth, said:

“The second year of the Ice Academy is even more exciting.

“We are building on the massive success of the 2017/18 Academy and for the young people involved this is a huge opportunity.

“They will learn ice hockey skills, build on their confidence to work as part of a team, receive advice from previous peer mentors and youth workers in one to one developments and develop key employability skills.”

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