Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust - GRIT

Gerry Rogan

Gerry Rogan, a former Northern Ireland Senior Civil Servant, was co-founder of Opportunity Youth back in 1993. He was a key architect of the organisation’s culture and delivery model as it developed and grew, now rebranded as Start360. Gerry’s legacy continues to permeate the organisation and the work we do. His understanding of the needs of people living on the edges of society and his quest to make a difference continues to resonate. Gerry died prematurely in 2003.

In 2006, our Chief Executive at the time, reached out to the family and other close friends to determine how they might together commemorate Gerry’s legacy. As a result, GRIT (Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust) was formed in his memory in 2007.

GRIT reflected Gerry's dedication to working with vulnerable people, particularly young people. GRIT sought to provide a unique support structure for those young people who had fallen between the cracks in terms of training and education. A residential-based programme and wraparound service was established to promote Gerry's belief that all young people, if given appropriate encouragement and support, have the potential to take their place in the world. GRIT’s primary focus was to ensure young people were provided with the tools and quality support they required to address their unique needs.

The GRIT Trustee Board, made up of Gerry’s lifetime friends and family, chaired by his wife, Therese, worked tirelessly together to attract funding to deliver an innovative and successful programme to support the young people Gerry cared so much for. This support extended to a 10-year period where almost 1000 young people were supported to make behaviour changes which impacted positively on their life chances and subsequent employability. The uniqueness of the GRIT residential experience was the depth of personal exploration of the barriers to growth coupled with the experience of the staff team to deal with these enormous issues and the follow-on wraparound support. Most importantly, young people found it enjoyable and beneficial whilst also challenging and rewarding. GRIT participants attended a 5-day residential during which they had opportunity to develop their own personal support plan. The residential and subsequent support was facilitated by Start360 staff for a period up to 6 months.

The innovative practice developed by Start360 over the 10-year period of GRIT delivery continues to be adapted. The learning has been a key element of the Peace4Youth Futures service which ended in March 2022 and is currently ongoing in Start360’s delivery of the National Citizen Service (NCS).

Gerry continues to have an influence in the delivery of Start360 services and is remembered fondly by the many staff who had the pleasure of knowing him and working alongside him during the Opportunity Youth days. Start360’s vison, mission and values speak to Gerry’s dedication and understanding. In other words, Gerry’s legacy continues.


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Start360's

Vision: Every Person Stronger

Mission: Change Starts Here

Values: Accept & Respect, Challenge & Change, Engage & Empower, Deliver

Gerry loved this analogy which speaks to his empathy, his attitude and his grit.

The Starfish Story

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.

“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”

“But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”

The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying, “It made a difference for that one.”

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