Europe

Davis College students win Rotary Young Citizen Award

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Media captionDavis College pupils have become the first Irish winners of Awards

Pupils at a County Cork school who established a national Missing Persons' Day in Ireland have won a Rotary Young Citizen Award.

Their Forget Me Not campaign provides counselling and raises funds to help find missing people.

The students from Davis College, Mallow, County Cork, are the first ever Irish group of students to receive the award.

They are now lobbying to make it Europe-wide.

Their idea began as a school project and its aim was to ensure that Ireland's missing people would not be forgotten.

One of the students involved in the project was Jacqui Walsh.

"We use silhouettes to get people's attention and we used them on stage to present our campaign. We have Trevor Deely, Philip Cairns, Fiona Pender, and let me introduce you to Mary, she's a six-year-old identical twin from Donegal.

Mary Boyle is the youngest person to feature in their poster campaign.

Student Josie McGrath Ryan said they were touched when Mary's mother paid a visit to the school.

Image caption The students used silhouettes to get people's attention and to represent some of the people still missing in Ireland

"I remember her visibly saying that she couldn't believe that people all the way down south had heard so much about her little girl," she said.

"That really touched us, that was really the driving force, and we really wanted to do something profound for the families of the missing.

As well as establishing a national Missing Person Day, the students have also created a poster campaign and fund-raising calendar.

Their efforts persuaded Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny to earmark a national Missing Persons Day, which was held for the first time on 4 December 2013.

Each year 8,000 people are reported missing in Ireland.

Missing Persons Day will take place each year on the first Wednesday in December.

Student Chloe Murphy said she "just cried and cried" when the day became a reality.

"To know that we were helping them out and they were just so thankful that day was just the most rewarding ever. Unforgettable," she said.

Teacher Kathy Kilgallion has witnessed all the hard work and dedication from the students.

"This is three long years for the students and it's four if you count the students that actually began the campaign, so as a teacher, it's a wonderful moment to see change occurring from the work that we've been doing in the classroom. It's really brought the classroom to life," she said.

Their commitment to Ireland's missing was honoured at a Rotary Great Britain and Ireland awards ceremony in Birmingham on Saturday.

Launched in 2007 in association with the BBC News Channel, the awards recognise young people under the age of 25, who have demonstrated their commitment to citizenship through various activities.

The awards can be for individuals or groups, for projects that showcase and celebrate the positive citizenship and important responsibilities assumed by many young people in Great Britain and Ireland.

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