Pupils from Newtownhamilton High School have seen their hard fundraising work pay off as they have become joint winners, alongside pupils from Cookstown High School, of the 2022 ABP Angus Youth Challenge.
They weren’t the only local school commended however, with St Catherine’s College Armagh coming in as joint runner-up alongside Dalriada School, Ballymoney, with the final taking place on October 28.
All teams received trophies from Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan and the General Manager of the Certified Irish Angus Producer Group, Charles Smith.
George Mullan said: “This competition challenges young minds to uncover the facts about beef production for themselves. It gives them the chance to actively experience and benefit from Angus beef farming and to develop the skills needed to work in our sector.
“I am delighted to see recognition continue to grow within our school’s community for the beneficial influence and impact the Challenge is having on a diverse range of young people and for the positive profile it is providing for agriculture as a subject or a career choice.”
The awards ceremony took place in the Logan Hall Balmoral Park in front of assembled guests of teachers, parents and industry stakeholders.
Aimee McCombe, Ellen Bailie and Sophie McKnight are the three pupils that brought the award back to Newtown High, after months of rearing their own mini-herd of Angus cross calves.
The girls also organised a range of fundraising events, including a 96-tractor strong Tractor Run, Newtown’s first ever ‘Farm to Fork Festival’ and a raffle containing huge prizes such as the first prize of a one night stay for two in Killeavy Castle Estate.
This huge range of charity events, which were well supported by the local community, allowed the girls to present a whopping £7000 cheque to Air Ambulance NI.
As part of their prize for winning the competition, they received a £1000 cheque for their school. At present, the calves that they have been rearing are not ready to go to slaughter and will be kept at the host farm until they gain their target weight.
Speaking to Armagh I, the girls said that they are over the moon to have won the award.
Sophie McKnight said: “I’m still in disbelief that we won, when our names were called out, I was in shock. This award proves that hard work really does pay off.
“I have had the most amazing journey through the ABP Angus Youth Challenge and it has opened up new doors for my future career & I have also gained new friendships.
“I could not have completed this journey without the help & guidance of Mrs Alexander, my mum & Nicole.”
Ellen Bailie added: “The excitement is still high from Friday, and we are over the moon to have took home the win. It really does prove that anything is possible if you have the determination.
“I was truly speechless while walking up to the stage to collect our trophy, and as Sophie said, ‘you know Ellen is over the moon when she has no words’.
“I honestly don’t think we would have got this far if it wasn’t for Sophie’s amazing mum Collette and my brilliant big sister Nicole who stood by us the whole journey.”
Aimee McCombe said: “I was thrilled that we had won. I am still overwhelmed with excitement. All of the work that we put into the ABP Angus Youth Challenger has paid off. It was a fantastic learning experience for us all.”
Mrs Carol Alexander, a Home Economics teacher at Newtownhamilton High School, said that winning the challenge was a great achievement for her school.
“This accolade will mean so much to Newtownhamilton High School. The entire school community have been supporting us every step of our Angus Youth Challenge Journey”, Mrs Alexander said.
“We have also made so many connections with businesses, companies and organisations that we want to thank as well. It really does prove that pupils from a small rural school can achieve anything with hard work, commitment and determination.”
Following Newtownhamilton’s success, efforts are already underway to bring next year’s trophy home to Armagh once again as 24 teams, including one from City of Armagh High School, took part in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge Exhibition for a place in the 2022-2023 finalist programme, and the chance to win their own calves.
They will have to go through the same process as this year, by impressing a panel of 20 judges with their ideas for sustainably produced Angus beef from farm to fork.
Congratulating the 24 teams that took part, George Mullan said: “The ABP Angus Youth Challenge gives a voice to young people who are interested in and want to make a difference to Northern Ireland’s agrifood sector.
“They are the future of our industry. We want to engage with them on their ideas. This exhibition offers them a showcase for their ideas and an opportunity to share their views with many of the leading organisations within our sector.
“For those teams that make it through to the next stage, a substantial prize awaits them. Each winning team will be the recipient of five Aberdeen Angus cross calves. They will have to rear their calves through to finishing over a year-long skills development programme.”