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Belfast venue the home for popular Odyssey Ice Academy programme

A group of 15 local young people laced up their skates for the first time at The SSE Arena, Belfast as the fourth Odyssey Ice Academy officially got under way with the Stena Line Belfast Giants recently.

David Goodwin, captain, Belfast Giant, Jeff Mason, assistant coach, Belfast Giants, and Carla Magee, Ice Academy participant. A group of 15 local young people laced up their skates for the first time at The SSE Arena as the fourth Odyssey Ice Academy officially got under way with the Stena Line Belfast Giants. Picture: Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye

The Ice Academy launched in 2018 and provides young people that have been in care or suffered from mental health challenges a unique opportunity to learn through leisure and recreation to work together to overcome challenges, supporting wellbeing and better life chances.

Over the next three months, the young people will develop a wide range of new skills that seek to improve their life chances. 

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The Ice Academy programme includes ice sessions with the Belfast Giants, coupled with professional “off the ice” training, including sessions in communications, fitness, volunteering, diversity, teamwork, and skills training. 

At the end of the academy, the students will graduate, as they are officially recognised as Community Giants – class of 2021/2022.

The initiative has been funded by the Odyssey Trust and the Department for Communities (DfC) as part of the Executive’s Together: Building a United Community Strategy. 

Project partner, Include Youth provides ongoing mentoring support to help build self-esteem, confidence and resilience as the young people transition into adulthood. The programme is one of several initiatives supported by the Belfast Giants community outreach partner, Belfast Harbour.

Regarding the launch of the Odyssey Ice Academy Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities said: “I am delighted that my department is funding the Odyssey Ice Academy for a fourth year.  The young people who have taken part in previous years have benefitted tremendously from the project and I’m sure that the new participants will be no different.  I look forward to seeing the progress these young people will make over the coming weeks.”

Jeff Mason, assistant coach for the Belfast Giants added: “It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Odyssey Ice Academy since we first started it back in 2018. Since then, we have brought young people from across Belfast and its surrounding areas together to access skills that will help further their future. We are confident that we will be able to deliver another fantastic programme which will lead onto new opportunities for the young people joining us this year.”

Paddy Mooney, director of Include Youth said:“The Odyssey Ice Academy is something that the young people of Include Youth look forward too and it’s fantastic to see it return for 2022. 

“The feedback from the young people on the programme has always been so positive and the skills and friendships they have learned over the course of the programme have stood by them. 

“Each year the programme just gets better and better and 2022 will undoubtedly be great year for the new participants.”