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Work Exhange program helps participants choose career paths

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By Cristina Suazo

After high school, Ronan Downy felt he had no sense of direction. To gain some clarity, Ronan joined the Clanrye Wider Horizons program for a six-week summer experience here in Boston.

Supported by the International Fund for Ireland, the Wider Horizons Program brings young adults between the ages of 18 and 28 to Boston and places them in community service internships. The program fosters mutual understanding and reconciliation between Protestant and Catholic communities in Ireland. In addition, it strives to improve participants’ employability by providing them with essential skills and practical work experience when they return home.

The IIIC arranged for Ronan to stay with a welcoming host family with a dog, cat and a pool. Living with locals made the transition into America much easier. Ronan said, “It was great coming home to dinner on the table.” He noticed the most interesting cultural difference while commuting. “It was the first time I would get on a bus and be the minority. Back home in County Down there is not as much diversity.”

In addition to living in a diverse neighborhood, Ronan worked with diverse staff and clients at Square Tech in the South End which serves Castle Square Tenants Organization (CSTO), a low income housing development providing $20 flat rate computer repairs, computer classes and after school programs. Ronan provided IT support and designed kids’ after-school activities. “I’ve enjoyed my time here 100%,” concluded Ronan.

For Ronan’s supervisor, Emilio Flores, the sentiment was mutual. Flores praises Ronan’s substantial contributions in just six short weeks. “He really took initiative... I would love to keep him on [the team].”

When asked what he will bring back to Ireland, Ronan firmly replies, “A sense of direction. I want to go to university. Education is everything.” Although fleeting, his time in America has been formative in creating a new attitude so he can hit the ground running once he is home in Ireland.

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