George Best Belfast City Airport has hosted a graduation ceremony at Stormont Pavilion to celebrate another cohort of inspiring young students completing the airport’s annual IGNITE programme.

IGNITE, a joint youth leadership initiative between the airport and Cinemagic, launched in 2019 by Senior Vice President of HBO and Game of Thrones creator Jay Roewe, aims to provide 100 young people with life changing opportunities over a five-year period.

17 students from secondary schools and higher education colleges across Greater Belfast graduate from the 2021/22 programme, not only developing valuable employability and life skills that will open doors in the future, but also gaining an NLP Diploma in Personal and Career Development.

That takes the total number of young IGNITE participants in Northern Ireland to 58 so far – an achievement Belfast City Airport’s Director of Corporate Services, Michelle Hatfield, is incredibly proud of:

“When we partnered with Cinemagic to launch IGNITE, we had a vision of positively changing the lives of young people in our local community.

“Now, three years on, it gives me great pleasure to continually watch that ambition come to fruition and witness first hand the impact our flagship programme is having on the next generation.

“Three cohorts of incredible young people have now completed our IGNITE programme, tailored each year to focus on important topics such as mental resilience, boosting confidence, building self-esteem, and developing employability skills.

“It is an honour to be part of something that is helping Northern Ireland’s youth to fulfil their aspirations and that will deliver life-long learnings far beyond the 12-month programme itself.”

Alongside 17 individual diplomas awarded to students from Aquinas Grammar School, Ashfield Girls High School, Blessed Trinity, Campbell College, De La Salle, St. Louise’s Comprehensive, St Dominic’s Grammar School, Strathearn School, Wallace Grammar School, and Wellington College, Belfast City Airport presented special merit awards to Andra Vladu, Christian Pollock, Evan Wise, and Shannon Gregson for outstanding contribution and dedication throughout the programme.

Reflecting on the accomplishments of the latest graduate group and the success of year three of the IGNITE programme, Chief Executive of Cinemagic, Joan Burney Keatings, commented:

“What another fantastic year of our IGNITE initiative with Belfast City Airport.

“The class of 2022 have followed in the footsteps of 41 other students before them to not only gain a nationally recognised diploma, but more than that, gain skills, abilities, and beliefs that will drive them forward in their future pursuits.

“It’s an incredible privilege for us to play a small role in the development of the stars of tomorrow and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for each and every one of them.”

The graduation event comes as 26 more students get set to embark on year four of the five-year IGNITE initiative. The next intake marks another record number of participants for Belfast City Airport, and includes two new schools – Methodist College, Belfast and the Royal Belfast Academical Institution.