Ayrshire College's ‘Connecting Communities’ initiative has been recognised as a finalist for the esteemed UK-wide Green Gown Awards.

The Connecting Communities project engages with over 10,000 people annually from the local community, including hard-to-reach groups facing social isolation and food poverty.

Connecting Communities has also worked closely with NHS Ayrshire and Arran to improve equality and measure the project's positive impact on the community's health.

Its unique approach includes a men's mental health programme, nutrition education for single parents, and a sports festival for people with additional support needs.

By partnering with local employers, the project has successfully provided students with valuable real-world experience, enhancing their employability.

Some of the initiatives delivered under the Connecting Communities banner include an older adult fitness group who work on a weekly basis with the College’s HND Fitness students, holiday camps such as the Kris Boyd and Rose Reilly Football Camps, and free porridge and soup for all Ayrshire College students, to ensure everyone has access to healthy meals during their time on campus.

The five key principles underpinning the Connecting Communities project are:

  • Empowering Creativity: Fostering staff and students to generate creative solutions, engage with employers, and connect with the community.
  • Inclusivity and Equality: Designing a sustainable program to engage people of all ages, abilities, and interests.
  • Industry Collaboration: Increasing engagement with industry partners to equip staff and students for the workforce effectively.
  • Local Engagement: Collaborating with local communities to maximize facility usage and drive inclusion.
  • Promoting Wellbeing: Prioritising mental and physical health for everyone within the community.

James Adams, head of sport and fitness at Ayrshire College, said: “Connecting Communities develops an excellent culture of free and sustainable health-based activity for students and the local community.

“To us colleges are much more than places of learning, our Connecting Communities initiative redefines our establishment as a safe space that provides not only national qualifications but additionally ensures that we are a living breathing building at the heart of the community.

"We have a proven track record of developing an understanding of the home and the family situation of our students.”

Cherryl Fulton, active schools co-ordinator, of East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities, said: “Sport and physical activity are paramount for young people. On a weekly basis, over 100 young people participate in physical activity through our ‘Connecting Communities’ programme.

“When young people take part in sports, it gives them the opportunity to meet new people, create friendships, form bonds with positive role models, develop positive attitudes towards physical activity and most of all have fun!

"Within all our Connecting Community Sports Hub Clubs, we see these positive attitudes and friendships being formed on a daily basis, with the outcome that our young people grow in confidence and have higher self-esteem.

"To witness the growth and development of young people within our programmes makes me so proud.”

The Green Gown Awards ceremony takes place on November 30 at the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool.