Pope Francis Award Recipient
Ryan O’Neill is 21 and studying for a degree in Psychiatric Nursing. Since leaving Bishop Hedley Catholic High School in Merthyr Tydfil, Ryan has come to appreciate the environment where he studied, which nurtured his values and faith, influenced his choice of career and enabled him to be respond to the world around him. Merthyr Tydfil has been severely impacted by the economic decline. Ryan wished to give something back to the community, so for the past 18 months he has been voluntarily returning to school, helping pupils as a learning support assistant. Ryan took it upon himself to organise support from the wider community. He has started supporting the PE department and has organised girls’ football trips and entries into competitions. He can see beyond the activity to its impact on raising the girls’ self- esteem.
Ryan also organised a speaker to talk about prostate cancer and how to be aware of its symptoms. His enthusiasm meant that the teenage boys, who would be reluctant to speak of such issues, were engaged in lively discussions. His particular rapport with disaffected boys in danger of falling through the gaps and not succeeding in education and employment, has meant that in his own time, Ryan has accompanied them to interviews for post 16 further training or education. He does this to support them where parents can’t. He is reflective, considering the issues pupils face and then determining what strategies he can effect to support them. He has done this quietly without any fuss.
Ryan believes in the power of faith to enhance the common good. His prayer life is evident in his relationships with staff, pupils and those in the wider community. All of his actions are rooted in his relationship with Christ. He decided that his career would be in support of other people’s wellbeing, studying whilst still volunteering to raise hope and aspiration among young people in danger of disaffection.
Ryan O'Neill was nominated by his alma mater, Bishop Hedley Catholic High School, Merthyr Tydfil