Twenty young people who have been in care or suffered from poor mental health will be lacing up their skates for the first time at the launch of the third Odyssey Ice Academy with the Stena Line Belfast Giants.

Over the next six months, the young people will develop a wide range of new skills that seek to improve their life chances.  The Academy programme includes ice sessions with the Belfast Giants, coupled with professional ‘off the ice’ training, including sessions in: communications; volunteering; diversity; team work; and skills training.  At the end of the Academy, the students will graduate in style, as they are officially recognised as Community Giants – class of 2019/20.

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, provides 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 the Odyssey Ice Academy for a third year.  This project continues to have a positive impact on the lives of young people who participated previously, and this year will be no different.  The Ice Academy represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for young people to improve confidence and develop important life skills alongside the iconic Belfast Giants.  In just 24 weeks, the class of 2019/20 will have made a real difference to their lives.”

Shannon Gordon from the Class of 19-20 said:

“We can’t wait to get started at the Odyssey Ice Academy as the class of 2019-20. We are excited to get on the ice with the Belfast Giants at The SSE Arena, Belfast today and hopefully make some new friends.”

Wendy Langham, Head of Social Affairs at Odyssey Trust, said: “As we launch our third Ice Academy, it’s amazing to look back and see the impact the programme has made. We first piloted the idea of an Ice Academy in 2018 and since then, we’ve seen over 40 young people access skills that will help further their future. We are confident that together we will be able to deliver another fantastic programme this season which will lead onto new opportunities for the cohort of 20 joining us this year.”

Gary Cooper, Employability Worker at Include Youth, said:  “The third Ice Academy is even more exciting than in previous years as we continue to build on the massive success of the programme and impact it has had on the young people involved. The academy helps young people to build their confidence to work as part of a team and develop key life skills whilst learning how to play ice hockey with the support of the Belfast Giants.”


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