Monday, March 13, 2023

St Leo’s College student Alannah Willoughby receiving her Rotary Youth Leadership Development award from Capt. Sean Fitzgerald, District Governor of Rotary Ireland and Patrick O’Riordan, Head of Public Affairs with the European Parliament in Ireland, at an event at Europe House in Dublin recently Photo: Collette Creative Photography


By Suzanne Pender

CARLOW student Alannah Willoughby was one of just 24 teenagers from all over the island of Ireland to be presented with a Rotary Youth Leadership Development certificate at the European Parliament’s offices in Dublin recently.

A transition year student at St Leo’s College, Alannah is the daughter of David and Deirdre Willoughby from Garrendenny, Crettyard and hahs two younger sisters – Zarah and Lexi. Alannah is a past pupil of Mayo NS, Crettyard.

The competition, which is one of Rotary Ireland’s longest-running youth projects, rewards young people with clear leadership potential based on their extra-curricular activities. It is run in conjunction with the European Parliament Liaison Office in Dublin and Euroscola in Strasbourg.

Alannah received her certificate from Rotary Ireland district governor Captain Seán Fitzgerald and Patrick O’Riordan, head of public affairs at the European Parliament’s office in Ireland.

During the six-day all-expenses-paid trip, the competition winners visited Belfast City Hall and Stormont, where they met and chatted with politicians from various parties.

Then it was onto Europe House in Dublin, where they were presented with their certificates before a trip to Dáil Eireann, where they met the minister for education Norma Foley and several TDs.

Alannah and the group then flew to Frankfurt for a two-day visit to Strasbourg. Having been formally welcomed by the president of the European Parliament, Robert Metsola, the students took part in an interactive workshop, which allowed them to discuss and vote on amendments to an EU proposal on climate action targets.

The students also enjoyed a walking tour of Strasbourg and met students from a host of other countries before enjoying some retail therapy!

Alannah, who is a member of Spotlight Stage School, Carlow and has appeared on the ***Late Late Toy Show*** several times, is also very interested in environmental issues and is deputy leader of the Green Schools committee in St Leo’s. She said she would definitely recommend the competition to young people in her area.

“This experience has taught me to push myself outside of my comfort zone and also believe that my thoughts and opinions are valid and listened to,” said Alannah.

“The highlight of the week for me was making such incredible new friends on the trip. While we all came from different backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs, we were all interested in understanding how the world worked. We engaged in discussions throughout the week, shared amazing memories and grew closer as a group. I hope to remain in contact with these people in the future and look forward to meeting them all again.”

Captain Fitzgerald said the knowledge and enthusiasm of the students was hugely impressive.

The Rotary Youth Leadership Development Competition is open to 16 and 17-year-olds who are living on the island of Ireland.

For more information, go to Rotary Youth Leadership Development Competition – Rotary in Ireland (


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