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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Opinion: Ulster counselors say thank you

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  • Ryan Rafferty (Irish counselor)
    I am 21 years old and will be entering my final year of college where I major in education with art and design. I participated in the Hutchinson Ulster Project in 2007. During the month I was in the project, I met Taylor Stevens, this year’s American counselor, and we have kept in contact since.
    It is a testimony to the importance of the Ulster Project and to the lives of the young people that Taylor and I have stayed involved with the project for more than six years. Thanks to the communities like McPherson, we are able to help promote peace and understanding across faiths and cultures. The Ulster Project's aim is to pave a way for a future in both Northern Ireland and the U.S.A. bringing hope for peaceful reconciliation between divided communities who hopefully one day can live in harmony with one another.
    This year I have seen the teens be moved, challenged and shaped into future leaders through many of the community service projects, leadership development courses and time spent serving a community where Catholic and Protestants live at peace with one another.
    Our hope is that as these teens return home, they in turn begin to lead their peers in the move toward breaking down the separation barrier that lies between the two communities and shape a different and more positive future for Northern Ireland.
    I would like to take the opportunity to thank the McPherson community for truly welcoming us and for all your support that makes the project happen year after year. I thank you for the example of love and peace that lies within your community that our teens get to be immersed in and be inspired.
    The Ulster Project is changing the lives of the young people for the better, and my great hope is that it continues to do this for many years to come
    Taylor Stevens
    (American counselor)
    I have been honored to be a part of this project in 2007, as well as a counselor for this project the past two years.
    This project has had a huge impact on my life and will continue to open my eyes throughout my life.
    I was privileged this month to have such a great team of counselors. Rebekah was in my project when we were teens, as well as Ryan and Jill. We were bonded from last summer.
    This project is about the process. Every little thing we do creates an opportunity for these teens to learn and grow in their faith. This project is definitely a life-changing experience for all involved, and I would encourage any teen between the ages of 14 and 16 or parent of teenagers to ask previous families about their experiences.
    Page 2 of 2 - Thank you to the McPherson community for their strong support for this project, as well as for the previous and future projects.
    Jill Ackerman
    (American counselor)
    I got involved in the Ulster Project for the first time in 2012. At that time, I was fairly unfamiliar with what the project was about.
    I was told it would be a busy month, but did not completely grasp what the project entailed until July began.
    The Ulster Project helps Northern Irish and American teens gain confidence and leadership skills, as well as working to unite the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, but I feel it has also helped me, as a counselor, grow as a person.
    The teens this year have been very enthusiastic and have jumped at everything we have put in front of them.
    It is amazing to see the difference in the teens as individuals and how close they have become as a group.
    The increased confidence was shown during the annual variety show where the teens who were not used to perform showed their amazing talents. It took a lot of courage and they all exceeded expectations.
    The teens have made the month of July very memorable.
    This project would not be possible without the support of the McPherson community. Thank you to everybody who has contributed in any way!
    Rebekah     Hampton
    (Irish counselor)
    This is my second visit here, as I was one of the teens on the first ever Ulster Project in McPherson.
    You can imagine my delight when I got asked to return this year!
    It's my belief that the project helped shape my career, as I am currently using my skills and training in drama to deliver peace-building workshops in schools and community groups.
    I have loved the opportunity to lead this group, although most of the time I just feel like one of the teens!
    The best part about being back as a leader is seeing the legacy that the project has had on the American Community.
    During my visit in 2007, my group spent a full day painting what was the new extension at Mt. Hope Sanctuary.
    This year I got to go back and meet the women in residence and do further work in the garden.
    It was so encouraging to see the impact that our one day's work had on the continued success and growth of Mt. Hope.
    During a morning of activities with MCDS, I also was able to reconnect with a client I had bonded with as a teen. A really memorable moment for me! I have been once again humbled by the generosity and support of the McPherson community. I'm so grateful to have spent time with familiar, welcoming faces and watch this year's group be impacted by them just as I was!
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