The NWRC Student Welfare and Students’ Union team beat off competition from universities and colleges across Ireland, winning the Welfare Campaign of the Year award at the United Student of Ireland (USI) Student Achievement Awards 2021.
Headed up by Danny Lyttle and Danny McFeely, known affectionately by colleagues and students at NWRC as ‘The Two Dannys,’ the teams worked together to boost morale, by encouraging students to get outdoors, build resilience and have some fun.
Their efforts resulted in a marked increase in students logging on for online learning, and students reporting on how much the project had improved their mental health.
The teams also worked together with Students Services and the NWRC Careers Academy to improve student access to technology and equipment for online learning, as well as making and delivering care packs and hampers to students and families in need.
Danny Lyttle, NWRC Student Event and Liaison Officer said: “We wanted to support students, build resilience and encourage positive engagement, so our entire Student Services team came together to support our students learning online.
“Our first task was to support students who needed technology, equipment and materials for virtual learning at home. This was followed up with free face masks which were designed and purchased by the Students Union. Care packs and food hampers were made and delivered to students, families and local nursing homes and homeless shelters.
“The team designed and produced a wide range of online materials and campaigns underpinning positive messaging. These included: anxiety coping mechanisms, keeping fit, eating healthy, positive mental health, and a little bit of fun mixed in.”
However, as the lockdown continued, the teams decided to step up their efforts after curriculum teams suggested that motivation and engagement levels with students were in decline.
Danny McFeely, Health and Well-Being Officer explained: “All activity focused on the benefits of getting outside, building resilience and, most importantly having fun. It was piloted on individual groups such as Barbering, Sport, Health & Social Care, Music and Art. Activities included; Outdoor Photography competition, Rate My Plate cooking competition, Home Made Pizza challenge, Busking Challenge, Motivational Desk Calendar, February Kilometres competition, Wheelie Bin Challenge and Virtual Art Exhibition. All activities were supported with generous prizes and awards to encourage participation.”
They quickly saw results with their project.
One student said: “I really enjoyed getting out and taking a few pictures as it was early 2021, we had a new lockdown and my head was wrecked. Getting outside was class.”
A lecturer said: “The challenge was like a shot in the arm for the students. I’m seeing nearly full classes online, with cameras on. Great initiative by the SU and I’ve put colleagues onto it from other subjects.”
Gillian Moss, Head of Learner Services at NWRC said: “Congratulations to these fantastic teams at NWRC. Using innovation, unique problem solving, inclusivity and simple positive energy, they have boosted the morale not only of students but the colleagues they work with. The objective was to improve engagement and participation, and they’ve achieved this and much more beyond.
“The work that Danny & Danny and the wider team have put in this year has been immense, and this award is so well deserved.”