Inspirational Michelle is a worthy awards finalist

A LARNE teenager has been named as a top winner in the sixth annual Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards.

Michelle Peacock, 15, is a Year 12 student at Downshire School in Carrick.

In July, 2011 Michelle underwent radical surgery in London to remove cancer. Described as a determined young woman, she faced her diagnosis and treatment with a maturity beyond her years.

While recovering from her most recent surgery, Michelle wrote a book for other teenagers affected by cancer to help them through their personal battle. Michelle felt they might gain a more positive perspective from reading her personal story.

Her book plainly explains cancer in a way that others her age can easily understand and answers questions that Michelle had while undergoing treatment. Michelle’s biggest hurdle while writing the book was her health.

“Some days just having the strength to sit up and type was a challenge,” she said. She finished her book in October, 2011 and hopes to have it published soon.

“Michelle has been an inspiration to many people,” says Jacqueline Stewart, Downshire School’s principal. “Our community greatly admires her courage, determination and positive attitude.”

Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards showcases the outstanding acts of volunteering demonstrated by second-level students across Ireland. Each year, 20 finalists are chosen from hundreds of applications nationwide. The programme has been developed by Pramerica Systems Ireland Limited in partnership with the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI).

They will each receive a Certificate of Achievement from Pramerica Spirit of Community later this month. On March 28, all 20 finalists will be honoured at a gala awards dinner in Londonderry. They will also receive €500 and an engraved silver medallion, presented by John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison. In addition, two of the finalists will be named All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year at the awards dinner and will receive €1,000 for a charity of their choice, a gold medallion and an all-expense paid trip to the United States in May to participate in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremony.

“We are delighted to honour the achievements of these students,” said Henry McGarvey, managing director of Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd. “Our programme is unique because we unearth the inspirational efforts of our youth that take place quietly in local communities all around Ireland.”

The 20 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards finalists were selected from second-level students nominated by their school principals last November. The applicants were judged on their motivation, service, impact, sustainability, commitment and personal challenges.