Cookstown student experiences life as an MLA at Stormont

UUP MLA Sandra Overend with work experience student Tony at Stormont
UUP MLA Sandra Overend with work experience student Tony at Stormont

Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster, Sandra Overend, recently welcomed work experience student, Tony Johnston, of Cookstown High School to Stormont.

Sandra commented on Tony’s time at Stormont: “It is important to get young people engaged in politics and political process and I believe that work experience schemes with MLAs can go some way in getting young people involved in politics. It is a chance for students to get a first-hand look at the work of the Assembly, the Members and the staff, which can go some way to encouraging engagement.”

“It was great to have Tony at Parliament Buildings to gain an insight into my day to day work on behalf of the constituents of Mid-Ulster, as well as develop his knowledge of the workings of the Assembly. He was enthusiastic and happy to learn, and I am glad that he found his work experience so rewarding.”

Speaking about the days he spent with Sandra, Tony said, “During my work experience I spent two days at Stormont with Sandra Overend, the Ulster Unionist MLA for Mid-Ulster. After receiving my pass, I was shown around some of the key rooms at Stormont, including the assembly chamber, where I was able to sit in on some of the discussions taking place. This proved to be very interesting as I was able to discover more about issues such as finance and employment, in particular apprenticeships for young people in Northern Ireland; an issue which is very important for people at a similar age to me.”

He also joined the press and policy teams during his time there, where he “was given the chance to do some research on potential policies and constructively analyse them to see if they would be successful. This was also very intriguing, as it showed me all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes and the important relationship the policy makers have with leading figures in the UUP, including Mike Nesbitt and Tom Elliot, both of whom I met there.

“I found my whole experience at Stormont really interesting, and completely different to anything I had ever done before. It not only showed me all the hard work that politicians and their advisors do, but also the wide variety of work they deal with. This opportunity also revealed to me all the different meetings and discussions which go on at Stormont, to deal with all the pressing issues in Northern Ireland, which I found fascinating.”

Sandra added, “I find it very rewarding engaging our young people in politics and I would encourage any other students or pupils who are interested in work experience with an MLA to come and speak with me. Furthermore, I look forward to visiting Magherafelt High School soon to assist them in their Civic Voices Project”