Ulster Project friends from Carrickfergus and Ohio reunited after seven years

Two cross-community project participants have been reunited in Carrickfergus for the first time in seven years.
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Jessica McKee, from Carrickfergus, and Amy Toalston, aged 22, from Alliance, Ohio, took part in the Ulster Project in 2015.

Jessica stayed with Amy and her family at their home in America for four weeks during July 2015.

She visited Alliance with nine other teenagers from Northern Ireland who took part in the initiative that year.

Jessica (left) and Amy with the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams.Jessica (left) and Amy with the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams.
Jessica (left) and Amy with the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams.

With Covid travel restrictions eased, Amy has finally been able to visit Jessica’s family this week.

The two Ulster Project delegates were also hosted in the Mayor’s Parlour at Carrickfergus Town Hall by the newly-elected first citizen, Alderman Noel Williams.

Amy said: “I have had an amazing time in Carrickfergus with Jessica and her family. Northern Ireland is incredibly beautiful, and it was a real privilege to be hosted by Mayor Williams in his parlour.

“A definite highlight of my trip was wearing the mayoral chain of office, signing the official visitors’ book, and posing for a few photos with the mayor.”

Amy dons the mayoral chain.Amy dons the mayoral chain.
Amy dons the mayoral chain.

Ald Williams said: “The Ulster Project is a wonderful cross-community scheme for teens in Northern Ireland and in the States to get to know one another, learn about each other’s cultures and history, and experience what each country has to offer.

“Amy and Jessica’s friendship is a testament to the ethos of the Ulster Project, and an endorsement for the project’s future success.

“I am delighted that Amy has had the opportunity to travel to Carrickfergus, and I was thrilled to host her in my first week as Mayor of Mid and East Antrim.”

Every year since 1975 the Ulster Project has been working with teenagers in Northern Ireland and the United States to educate and develop them as leaders to effect change in their communities.

It began in 1975, and at one stage host families in 28 American cities welcomed teenagers from the province.

More recently, the 2017 scheme saw 12 groups from Northern Ireland travel to cities across the USA.