History of Youthreach

History of Youthreach Sligo

Youthreach Sligo was established in Sligo Town in May 1989 by Sligo VEC under the guidance of Mr. Jim Sproule C.E.O.. The centre opened in a converted factory building in the St. Anne’s area of Sligo with seventeen young people and five staff attending on the first day. 

The centre experimented with many different ideas and subjects on how best to engage with early school leavers, gaining experience and learning from what worked well in those early years. Sport always featured strongly on the curriculum, with the centre entering a team in the Sligo / Leitrim Junior Soccer League in 1990. The team was made up of players from learners and staff in the centre as well as parents of the learners. This sporting theme carried on over the years with Youthreach Sligo winning the All Ireland Youthreach 5 A side indoor soccer competition in 1998 and again in 2000. On one memorable occasion back in 1994 the F.A.I. cup along with the winning Sligo Rovers team visited the centre. A former learner who won the all- Ireland competition with Youthreach back in 2000 Keith Carty went on to play for Sligo Rovers senior team as well as a number of other teams in the league of Ireland. 



Since the centre opened back in 1989 almost 1,000 young people have passed through our doors. We like to think all of them have benefited from their time here. We have had many success stories but this document is too short to start listing personal accounts on how well so many of our young people have done. 

Over the years the centre has taken part in many Cross – Border events to help broaden the horizons of both its participants and staff.

Some of these projects include:
Sligo / Derry Group in Denmark for three months1991
Sligo / Derry Group in Denmark for three months1992
Sligo / Derry Group in Denmark for three months1994
Sligo / Enniskillen Group in Toronto Canada for three months1997
Sligo / North Down in London for one week2001
Sligo / North Down in London for one week2002
Sligo / Belfast / Newry / Clones  4 film Project2004
North / South Education Forum (Alternative Education Programme)2005

Art and performing arts have also featured strongly on the curriculum of our centre with participation in the St. Patricks day parade a regular feature from 1995 – 1999 and again from 2008 – 2014. Each year we won our section of the competition. We have also written and performed in four films since we first dipped our toe into film making back in 2004 as part of a cross border project.  

The Game2006–2007Premiered in Gaiety Cinema in 2007
Watching You Cry2009–2010Premiered in Gaiety Cinema in 2010
Last Chance2013–2014Premiered in Gaiety Cinema in 2014
Three Careful Owners2015–2016Premiered in Omniplex Sligo in 2016

Many of the street puppets which we built for the St. Patricks day parade travelled North to take part in parades and street festivals there.



We ventured into Junk couture in 2013 reaching the regional Finals in Castlebar, and have performed in the Hawks Well Theatre as part of The ETB’s shows, and many African Drumming street performances. We regularly bring groups to theatres such as the Board Gais Theatre Dublin, Linen Mill Castlebar and the Hawks Well in Sligo. Certification for the first number of years was mainly supplied by City & Guilds, but by 1997 Youthreach Sligo had become one of the fore runners in offering N.C.V.A. Certification, which became F.E.T.A.C. and later Q.Q.I..  Youthreach Sligo then introduced the Junior Cert programme in 2002 and the Leaving Cert Applied in 2008. In Youthreach Sligo we pride ourselves on not just offering certification but a programme first and foremost, which can be flexible and adapted to best meet the needs of the learners we encounter. 



Youthreach Sligo became a pilot centre for the Youthreach Quality Framework Initiative back in 2003 and under the guidance of Shivaun O Brien carried out its first Internal centre Evaluation  ( ICE ) that year. We carried out our first Centre Development Plan ( CDP ) in 2007 which ran to 2012, and started  Centre Evaluation and Improvement Plans ( CEIP ) from 2016. 

In 2007 the centre became a pilot centre for the Special Education Needs Initiative ( SENI ) under the guidance of Mary Gordon. This allowed us to engage in Mentoring support for learners, as well as broaden the number of overall supports which we can now offer to all learners, such as extra literacy support, more personal development programmes as well as Leisure and Recreation. Through the literacy initiative we began writing poetry (both staff and learners ) and wrote our first book of poetry in 2012. This later developed into a National competition from 2015 when we celebrated the 150 birthday of Yeats and the 1916 rising in 2016. In 2017 we wrote about Kindness, Dreams in 2018, Second Chance in 2019 and Memories in 2020. We collected the National Flag at a ceremony in Croke Park in 2016 celebrating 100 years since the Easter Rising. We purchased a full sized snooker table to add to our sport facilities. 



This programme also allowed us to take trips to Spain which included: 

  • Barcelona in 2011
  • Madrid in 2012
  • Salou / Barcelona in 2013

We also created a girls group in 2009 which later incorporated the girl’s active programme from 2011 onwards.

We have also introduced the Gaisce Award in the centre with our first learner receiving her bronze medal at an awards ceremony in 2016.


The staff team in the centre has been solid over the years with only a small number of changes in personnel. In 2007 Phill Corcoran ( Counsellor ), Damian Beirne ( Woodwork ) and Tracy Mc Garry ( Home Economics ) joined the team with Cuan Prendergast moving down the country closer to home, Mark Lewis emigrating to Australia and Mickey Mc Loughlin retiring. Judith keyes ( English ) joined our team in 2014 and Sinead Mc Loughlin ( History ) joining in 2016. Since then Tracy Mc Garry has moved back into Secondary Education, Karl Burthom ( Music ), and Yvonne Mc Cann ( Admin ) have joined the team. Ann Gallagher has transferred to a tutoring role during this time.

  • Karl Burthom

    Karl Burthom, Resource Person, Youthreach. I have worked in Youthreach Sligo since 2010. I am a musician, largely self taught,...

  • Ultan Mulvihill

    Ultan Mulvihill B.( Tech ) Ed. Hons. Postgraduate Diploma in Learning support. I joined Youthreach Sligo as a staff member...

  • Yvonne McCann

    Yvonne Mc Cann started work in Youthreach in January 2020 as office administrator. When people describe me, “helpful and friendly”...


Some other highlights include the visit to the centre of President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin in June 2001, Gerry Adams President of Sinn Fein in 2002, Sile De Valera T.D. minister of State Department of Education and Science in December 2005 when she officially opened our new centre and John Perry T.D. on a number of occasions. A board of management for Youthreach Sligo was set up in 2007 and operated until 2015 when it was replaced by an advisory committee which oversees the work of four Youthreach centres in the Mayo Sligo Leitrim ETB area. The centre is now in its 32nd  year of operation with about 200 years of experience within the staff team .