Palmerstown woman wins Obama Fellowship for project

by Padraig Conlon
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A local woman has been selected for a prestigious fellowship founded by former US President Barack Obama.

Ciara Byrne, who is originally from Palmerstown, was selected by the Obama Foundation for a garden project she co-founded in Nevada called Green Our Planet.

Launched in 2013, Green Our Planet is a non-profit conservation organisation that runs the largest school garden programme in America.

Green Our Planet partners with schools to create school gardens and hydroponic farms across Clark County, Nevada, which is the fifth largest and one of the lowest performing school districts in the country.

Students become farm-preneurs, engaging with Green Our Planet’s outdoor and hydroponic curricula from kindergarten to fifth grade.

The model engages the entire community in supporting students, from hiring local farmers to come and teach weekly environmental lessons, to bringing chefs to teach children culinary arts with the food they have grown, to partnering with bankers who help students build business plans for their farmers markets.

By fifth class, students are running the farmers markets themselves.

Green Our Planet’s approach has been credited with reducing absenteeism and improving academic performance in more than 150 partner schools.

Selected as one of twenty leaders from a pool of 5,000 applicants worldwide, Ciara will join a two-year, non-residential program that brings together 20 leaders representing 10 countries and five continents.

The goal of the fellowship is to help these leaders continue their work on helping to alleviate some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“I am honoured to be a part of the 2019 Obama Foundation Fellows class and am excited to join such a diverse and talented class of community-minded civic innovators,” Ciara said following the announcement of her selection.

“With the support of the Obama Foundation, Green Our Planet will be able to continue to strengthen our work as a leader in the school garden movement in Nevada and across the country.”

Ciara emigrated to the US from Ireland in 1993 aged 23, not knowing anyone.

She is a documentary filmmaker and entrepreneur who set up and ran a film production company, Lion Television, with offices in LA and New York.

During that time she managed over 60 employees and produced hundreds of films a year for PBS, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS, BBC, Fox, and E!

“The 2019 Obama Foundation Fellows are tackling big, complex issues in unique and inspiring ways but all share the common practice of making positive change in their communities,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation.

“After welcoming a historic inaugural Fellows class last year, we are excited to bring together a new group of civic innovators and amplify their work.

“These leaders are taking off, and I look forward to working with this remarkable group and watching them transform the world for the better.”

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