A SENIOR Youth Worker with the North Eastern Education and Library Board who is originally from Armoy has been awarded the MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.
Eugene Stewart has received the accolade for his many years of work in the field covering the greater Coleraine area, Ballymoney, Garvagh and more recently Magherafelt.
"I am surprised and overwhelmed to be a recipient of this award," said Eugene. "I have no idea who nominated me for it but it is recognition for the vast amount of youth work that we do locally."
Wife Kathryn, a part time lecturer, and children Tara, 15, and Rory 13, were also surprised by the distinction and are looking forward to the presentation at Buckingham Palace in due course.
Best known for his work in support of Coleraine Youth Council and his involvement in ongoing links with the United States which have seen hundreds of young people from the north coast travel to American summer camps over the years, Eugene has a long track record of promoting successful Youth Service projects in the North East.
After training as a teacher of PE, Maths and Religion at Jordanstown he taught at Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle before starting his youth work career as a part time worker in Whitehead Youth Club.
He also worked with the South Eastern Board in Lisburn and Belfast over a fifteen year period where he connected with young people on the streets and got them involved in positive pursuits.
His career took him to Rupert Stanley College in Belfast where he helped develop the Youthways course and he also worked with young offenders while a worker with the Peace People and Save the Children.
In 1993 he brought this wealth of experience to the North East where the post of Senior Youth Worker sees him provide training, support and development for around 120 youth organisations. He manages directly the youth centres in Sunlea, Portrush, Garvagh and Magherafelt and supports the centre at Ballysally.
He also oversees the annual summer Rock Camp at Bushmills Education Centre, promotes cross community visits by groups of young people to Poland and Belgium and the range of American projects which link Coleraine with Boston, Cape Cod, Harvard University and the Police departments in the United States.
Young people from here have the chance to compare and contrast the service provided by the PSNI and their American counterparts in the Justice system.
His other inter-agency work has included involvement with Operation Raleigh and the Prince's Trust where he has taken groups of young people to Kenya, Scotland and mainland Europe. He has also worked with the Ocean Youth Club to give young people the experience of living and sailing on board a sea-going yacht.