Tag Archive for: Leadership

I am sure that, like me, you were alarmed by the riots in Dublin on Thursday evening last week. The Irish like to think of themselves as welcoming and friendly …the land of 1000 welcomes… so it was a bit of wake-up call when the cry went out, as you may have heard on social media, to kill the foreigners in a city that is increasingly international and diverse. I know that many people have been seriously shocked by what happened. And it has made me ponder how common it is, and has always been, to blame the immigrant and the outsider for the problems in a country. It’s a very old story.

When we were living in South Africa there was an outbreak of xenophobic violence and many African immigrants from countries surrounding South Africa were attacked, their businesses were destroyed and some were even killed. In our local township of Huhudi, which a few of you will be visiting in February and from where many of the children came to the school I was running, a couple of immigrants were killed, including a Somali who had set up a bakery. The old cry went out that ‘these foreigners are taking our jobs’ and he was killed by a mob. The following week there was another outcry…there was a shortage of bread in the township. 

Discrimination and prejudice is usually the result of ignorance. It is harder to hate someone with whom you have shared your life, and whose concerns and fears you have made an effort to understand. It makes you realise that they are people just like you, with the same hopes and fears for themselves and their families. It is much easier to discriminate against people you don’t know or don’t relate to and to convince yourself and other people that they are somehow not like us and therefore of less value. That can happen on a micro level and cause hurt, but it can also happen on a much bigger scale and the results of that can be horrific and catastrophic. We all know what happened to the Jews before and during the second world war. 

In case you think that this was a unique occurrence, be warned that it is all too common. On Saturday evening my wife and I were invited to dinner with some Argentinian friends from our church. As we chatted the wife of the couple dropped into the conversation that her grandfather was Armenian. I immediately asked if he had fled from Turkey during the genocide of the Armenians living in what was then the Ottoman Empire, in 1915. She said he had. Up to a million ethnic Armenians were marched into the Syrian desert and left to die, while their cities and towns were systematically destroyed and their culture and history erased. This is a fact of history that Turkey to this day denies was a genocide but is accepted as such by most Western countries. She said that her grandfather had been rounded up with all of his family and hit on the head. He passed out and when he woke up he found himself under the body of his grandmother, where he pretended to be dead for the next three days until the attackers left. He eventually emigrated to Argentina. Amazing to discover that story about someone I have known for a while. 

I asked her husband, Pablo, why you see many indigenous people from South America in countries like Brazil and Peru and Bolivia, but not in Argentina. He explained in a very matter of fact way that in the 19th century the indigenous people there were considered a nuisance and rounded up and killed or forced to emigrate. I had no idea about that. Argentina is an enormous country but there are basically no indigenous people left there at all. They were victims of an ethnic cleansing.

In Australia, the Aboriginal, indigenous people were considered to be sub-human and hunted down by the early white settlers, mainly British and Irish. There are many still around now, though often living in very squalid conditions. Such was the attitude towards them that for a long time, and until as recently as the 1970s, their children were removed from their families and forcibly adopted by white families, so that they would grow up to be civilised. I played a season of cricket in Australia in 1990-91 and I was horrified to hear the casual and racist manner in which white Australians referred to the oldest inhabitants of their land. Oddly enough, my aunt married an outback farmer and they lived in a remote corner of north west Australia known as the Kimberleys. The nearest white neighbour was about 50 miles away and so my cousins Joe and Matt grew up with the local Aboriginal children as their friends and grew to respect them. Joe is now one of the world experts on Aboriginal languages at a university in Sydney.

In 1994 in the small Africa country of Rwanda there was a genocide when the majority ethnic Hutus turned on the Tutsis and butchered up to a million of them in a couple of months. Ill-feeling, whipped up by propaganda, had been building until the cry went out that the Tutsis were ‘cockroaches’ who should be stamped on. They were vermin and to destroy vermin is doing everyone a favour. This happened even despite the presence for much of the time of United Nations peace-keeping forces. That is only 30 years ago.

In 1986 I was part of an exchange between British and Arab students. I spent a week in Jordan meeting young Palestinians who were refugees from the West Bank, from where their families had been forced to flee in 1948, or 1967 or 1973….you can go and research those dates. What is happening now in Israel and Gaza fills me with horror but also enormous sadness. Neither side in the conflict sees the other as human and, as I said earlier, when that is the case it makes it much easier to treat them as the ‘other,’ of lesser value. How many Jews really try and understand the pain of Palestinians who lost their homes after the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948? How many Palestinians understand the historic persecution of the Jews and the incredibly real and still raw trauma of the killing of 6 million Jews before and during the second world war? I am not going to attempt an analysis of an historically complex situation (I don’t want to walk into a minefield) but to see the hatred that people have for each other in the holy land, where Jesus once walked and talked, is hugely upsetting. Last week it was announced that Christmas this year has been cancelled in Bethlehem. 

I made a friend on that trip, Jeroen Gunning, who was so moved by the experience that he has become one of the top experts in the world on the region and knows more about Hamas and Hezbollah than almost anyone on the planet. He is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College London. I have been trying to pin him down for a fireside chat, but, as you can imagine, he is in high demand at the moment. 

You might think that these kind of things couldn’t happen nowadays in the West. However, when I hear Donald Trump, former and quite possibly future president of the United States, describe his enemies and detractors as vermin I do worry. After all, vermin is not really human and to destroy it is to do everyone a favour. 

In the South Africa where my wife grew up, along with a few of the staff here, non-whites were treated as second class citizens by law and did not have the right to vote. I have told you this before but her best friend was not allowed to go to the beach with her or travel in the best train compartment as those were reserved for white people. That same friend is now vice-chair of the South African medical research council and we are staying in her home at Christmas in Cape Town. 

When I started the job in South Africa we decided to have a few teaching staff round for dinner and we made sure that those coming were a mixture of different racial groups: white, black, mixed race, Indian…they were enjoyable evenings, but during one of them one of the black teachers, possibly about 40 years old, admitted that this was the first time that she had ever sat down to eat with a white person. What we had thought was normal was actually far from normal. But how can you build relationships between people of different backgrounds, mutual trust and respect, if you do not create the conditions for dialogue and honest conversation?

You may wonder why I am telling you all of these things, many of which are extremely depressing. I’m not entirely sure myself, but I guess that in some ways I am just trying to share with you what has been on my mind, particularly since the attack by Hamas on October 7th. And having observed the scenes in Dublin last week I also want to change the conversation slightly and ask what part we as Columbans can play in being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Yes, even we here in our splendid isolation on the hill have a responsibility.

This is a very multi-racial and multi-cultural school and it is being increasingly reflected in the city around us. In the 8 years I have been here I have seen Dublin become much more cosmopolitan. I think that is great, but some people clearly feel threatened by it or want to use it as an excuse for their own shortcomings. The same understanding of difference and diversity that is needed for society to function successfully should be modelled by us here in our own smaller and admittedly privileged context. How we respect each other, particularly those who are different from ourselves, how we talk about each other, how we talk to each other, is supremely important. Do you make an effort to understand the country your friends come from? Do you have friends who don’t look like you or talk like you? Can you disagree with your friends who may have different viewpoints from you, while remaining friends? Society is losing that valuable skill, the skill of disagreeing respectfully. Our diversity here is our strength and we must learn to cherish our differences. 

I hope that all of you take some interest in what is happening in the news. I think we all have a responsibility to know what is going on. And I think we also have a responsibility to get to know people from different communities, to really listen to their stories, because otherwise we risk getting our opinions from hysterical social media, from fake news and algorithms that manipulate us. It can feel like the big events in the world happen a long way away and do not touch your lives, but last week’s events here in Dublin showed that the culture of blaming the foreigner and the outsider is alive and well over here. And perhaps what I really wanted to say this morning is, let’s make sure that that is not something that anyone can ever accuse us of here at St. Columba’s. 

It’s that time of the year again – the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal aims to collect and deliver wrapped and packed shoeboxes, full of toys and essentials, for some of the poorest children in the world. To date, over 2 million such boxes have been handed directly to children all around the world and the College are delighted to have a long-standing relationship with this wonderful charity.

Last year, our Transition Year pupils (ably assisted by Mr Paul Cron) filled over 200 boxes while also volunteering at the Team Hope warehouse, packing additional boxes and loading lorries destined for Eastern Europe and beyond. We hope to top that figure this year but need your help.

Over the half term, we would greatly appreciate if you could make up a box/boxes or collect some fillers for the boxes or even empty shoeboxes and bring them back to school after the break. All completed boxes or fillers can be brought to the collection point in Gwynn or left in the staff common room. You can also donate online via the Team Hope website.

Five simple steps to follow:

Get a shoebox, wrap the box and lid separately with Christmas paper (we have already wrapped 150 boxes, so if if this is too much hassle fill one of our boxes)

Decide to whom you want to give your gift (boy or girl) and what age: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.

Fill the box = use our 4 W’s as a guide (Wash, Write, Wear, Wow – more details below)

Close the box with an elastic band – please don’t seal with tape as the contents of each box have to be checked to comply with regulations.

Please include the €4 for transport in your leaflet envelope either on top of the gifts or taped to the inside of the lid.

The first eight weeks of Transition Year 2023-2024 have been typically hectic. In the classroom, the pupils continue to expand their knowledge and skills across a wide range of subjects and most recently received their Junior Cycle results. While we place a strong emphasis on academic progression in TY at St. Columba’s, there is still plenty of opportunity to explore interests beyond the classroom.

So far this term, the Transition Year pupils have welcomed Stephen Kiernan (motivational speaker), Alex Hibbert (Arctic explorer), John Lonergan (former Governor of Mountjoy), Fiona Boobbyer (expert on human trafficking) and Stephen Conway from Team Hope’s Christmas Shoebox Appeal. Visiting speakers are a great way of expanding the worldview of the pupils and we’re enormously grateful for all those who come and speak with our pupils.

There have also been several expeditions, with a visit to Flynn Park for outdoor activities an early highlight. They’ve also visited the Seán O’Casey Theatre to see ‘Bullied’, an excellent play on the theme, which was a Bullying Awareness Week activity. More recently, the TY biologists visited Dublin Zoo for an evolution workshop and, of course, had a chance to see the impressive animals there and explore the conservation work taking place there.

Charitable work is always at the core of our programme and we’ve been delighted to help fundraise for the Hope Foundation and Team Hope. The Transition Year pupils also organised a ‘Colour Run’ to help raise more funds for the Hope Foundation – it was a brilliant, colourful event and will surely cement itself in the College calendar.

The annual TY House Speech competition also took place. There was a high standard overall. Rebekah Fitzgerald Hollywood and Safia Walker were equal second, the clear winner being Grace Koch with her account of her great-grandmother, Freda Ulman Teitelbaum – you can read her speech here.

This week, the Transition Year pupils are completing their Community Involvement placement. This new addition to the TY programme sees every pupil work with a charitable or not-for-profit organisation, gaining valuable insight into teach charity but also building their knowledge of the world of work.

There’s been time for some fun activities too and most recently the TY pupils honed their pumpkin carving skills.

Well done to Ms Lynch and her team for putting together and coordinating the complex machine that is the Transition Year.

Congratulations to Grace Koch, the winner of this year’s Transition Year House Speeches, which took place last weekend. Grace gave a powerful and well-delivered speech, with a personal connection to her Great Grandmother Freda Teitelbaum’s experience with anti-semitism and concentration camps. In joint second, Rebekah Fitzgerald Hollywood spoke confidently on Psychedelics and Psychology and the medicinal benefits of Psilocybin and Safia Walker on the fear and benefits of making a speech. Iona were the House winners.

You might imagine things slow down for Transition Year pupils at this time of the year but it is the opposite in fact. As the year draws to a close, the pupils continue to develop their knowledge and skills and we reflect on and celebrate their achievements in a range of academic and extracurricular endeavours.

Away from the classroom this term there was a 50km hike along the Wicklow Way (pictured), a visit to the School Summit careers fair, a trip to Nowlan Park in Kilkenny for a hurling match, a visiting speaker from DePaul, volunteering with The Hope Foundation, sailing in Dun Laoghaire, the Viking Splash tour, a forensics workshop and a TV production workshop in Maynooth; all over six short weeks.

Recently, four major events focused on the Transition Year pupils’ academic achievements. Shannon Walker Kinsellawon the TY Academic Prize with her project on ‘fear’, judged by former SCC teacher Alan Cox. Clodagh Walsh won the Alyn Stacey Cup at the TY Modern Language Evening while, at the TY English Evening, ‘Premier Awards’ for English were presented to Aeladh Bradley-Brady, Cajetan Cardona, Carlotta Castagna, Amber Cotton, Ava Fagan, Emilia Hager, Manuela Nassief, Melina Paulsen, Shannon Walker Kinsella, Clodagh Walsh, Alison Wang and Johanna zu Solms. (Click here for a full report on the TY English Evening on the College website). The remaining academic prizes were awarded last night at the final Transition Year Awards & Prizes event with full details here.

Two other prizes were awarded last night also. Elliot Warnock was presented with the Spirit of Transition Year award, for embodying the philosophy of TY, and Ciara Finn was presented with the Transition Year Award for Outstanding Resilience.

It has been a bumper year for our Transition Year pupils and huge credit and thanks must go to Ms Lynch and her predecessor Ms Kilfeather for their extraordinary work in building and maintaining such a vibrant, rich and varied programme.

The College’s annual Sports Day always brings colour, energetic competition, a whole lot of fun and, occasionally, even sunshine. This year’s event was no different, with almost every pupil competing across a range of sports and games. There was a competitive edge of course, with the four teams hoping that they will come out on top. In the end, it was the red team that took the glory (and the ice-creams) but sport and fun were the real winners. Many thanks to all the staff who took part and helped with the event but a particular mention must go to the team captains and Mr Havenga, for his organisation of the day. Some of the notable wins at this year’s Sports Day were:

Cloister Dash – Boys: Tom Larke, Girls: Felicitas Boecking

Mountain Run – Boys: Hughie Casey, Girls: Hannah Bergmann

Later that evening, the annual Sports Dinner took part. This event celebrates the achievements of individual pupils but also the College teams. After a tremendously successful season across all codes, it was brilliant to sit down and reflect on such a great year of sport. We were deloghted to welcome Bernard Jackman, former Ireland, Leinster and Connacht rugby player and former coach to Grenoble and the Dragons. Bernard spoke about sport to the assembled pupils and coaching staff before presenting awards and colour to pupils. Some notable awards presented on the evening include:

Girls Hockey Club Person of the Year: Ayodeji Ediale.

Basketball Club Person of the Year: Dishuo Chen

Tennis: Boys’ Singles – August Schoen, Girls’ Singles- Sarah Cron

The highlight of the Sports Dinner is the awarding of ‘colours’ – an honour which acknowledges the exceptional contribution pupils have made to College sports. And, finally, the Sports Person of the Year, for both boys and girls, was annouced. Colours were awarded to the following pupils for 2022/2023:

Colours

Boys’ Basketball: George King and Stephen Kou

Cricket: Carl Kerenski, Caleb Owen, Marco Trolese

Boys’ Hockey: Johannes Pabsch, Tyrone Shi, Marco Trolese, Cristoph Geyer

Girls’ Hockey: Elys Walker

Rugby: Solomon Babajide, Tommy Casado, Kieran Ovenden, Caleb Owen, Ben Patterson, Marco Trolese.

Sports Persons of the Year

Boys: Caleb Owens and Marco Trolese, ex aequo
Girls: Abbie Murray

Team of the Year

Senior Boys Rugby

Below is a selection of photos from both the Sports Day and Sports Dinner.

Following success in the early rounds of the Irish Olympiad of Experimental Science at Dublin City University last month, the College had six pupils qualify for the final selection round at DCU at the end of February. Two of those six have now been selected for the Irish team – Lorne Walsh and Calvin She – and will form part of the six-person Irish team to compete at the final of the European Olympiad of Experiment Science in Riga, Latvia, in April. Congratulations to both pupils on their fantastic achievement and we wish them success in Riga. The boys will spend the next two days at DCU preparing for the EOES.

Grace Koch, Form III, reports on the recent CSPE class visit of Sarah Kearney from DePaul on homelessness.

Sarah Kearney is the Community and Events Manager for DePaul Ireland. Last Friday, she spoke to us about her organisation and the issue of homelessness. Homelessness affects a massive portion of the Irish population, with 11,754 people being registered as seeking emergency accommodation. This figure is expected to exceed 12,000 by the end of the month. 3,400 of these people are children. However, this statistic does not account for people who are not registered, such as people living in hotels or staying with friends. There are many causes of homelessness, such as addiction, the housing crisis, family estrangement, debt, disability, poverty, and eviction. Many homeless people have only a sleeping bag and the clothes on their backs.

DePaul was founded in 1989 in London and came to Dublin in 2002. It is an international organization, with services in many countries such as Ireland, the UK, Croatia, Ukraine, and more. Their goal is to end homelessness and they work toward a world where everyone has a place to call home and a stake in their community. DePaul focuses on five main areas: prevention, families and young people, high-support accommodation, health and rehabilitation, and housing. They have 37 services around Ireland in 20 counties. In 2021, they supported 3,670 people and 822 families. We can help reduce homelessness by spreading awareness, organizing our own events, and interacting with DePaul’s content online. The talk was very informative and engaging, and everyone learned a lot about the issue of homelessness.

Last night we welcomed seventeen Old Columbans and parents to speak with our senior pupils (Forms IV, V & VI) about their careers and career journeys. There was a wide range of career areas represented, from business to law to the arts. The pupils were first introduced to all the speakers in the BSR before participating in a round-robin style series of short intimate talks with the speakers. The pupils could choose five visitors to listen to, rotating around every 15 minutes. At the end of the short talks, the pupils and visitors returned to the BSR for a Q&A sessions where more nuggets of advice were shared.

The Guidance Team, Mr Jones & Mr O’Shaughnessy, would like to thank all the speakers for giving their time to speak with the pupils and sharing their expertise and advice. Thanks also go to the Parents’ Association for their help in organising and running the event.

The speakers last night included:

Philip Conroy – OC – Market Development Representative, Docusign

Adrian Walker – Parent – Director of Grants & Incentives, Deloite

Cormac Murphy – Parent – Management Consultant

Jenny Green – Parent – Hotelier

Sinéad Ovenden – Parent – Partner PWC

Dante Borillo – Parent – IT Infrastructure

Lorcan Maule – OC – Solicitor

Selina Guinness – OC & Parent – Lecturer in Creative Writing, Writer, Farmer

Ben Huskinson – OC & Parent – Environmental Scientist / Engineer

Kirsty Foynes – Parent – Interior Architect

Georgina Walsh – Parent – Business Psychologist

Janette Dwyer – Parent – European Patent Attorney

Yvonne McGuinness – Parent – Artist

Ashley Sherwood – OC – Advanced Nurse Practitioner

Michael Casey – Parent – CEO Retail & Investor

Ed Sherwood Smyeth – OC – Software Development

Gianni Matera – Parent – Investor

During the February midterm break, a group of St. Columba’s College junior and senior rugby players travelled to Naples to play a series of games against Amatori Napoli Rugby Club. The group arrived in Rome on the morning of Friday 17th and then travelled south to Naples by bus, where they were based during their trip, and were straight into action the following day. With a playing squad of 43, they played their first two matches against Amatori Napoli Rugby Club with the Junior team winning 40-29 and the SCT winning 29-19. After the games, Amatori Napoli hosted a spread of Italian food and the boys socialised and watched Ireland’s Six Nations match against France at the clubhouse.

The next day, the group climbed Mt. Vesuvius, had pizza for lunch, and explored historic Pompeii. They also had downtime before dinner at the hotel. On Monday, they had a walking tour of Naples with lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to Amatori Napoli for the second round of matches. They were two more competitive games but the hosts atoned for their losses in the first matches. This time, the Juniors lost narrowly 28-29 and the SCT lost 21-5, but everyone had a good time and friendships were made.

Amatori Napoli was very hospitable and the boys enjoyed the food and gifts they received. On Tuesday morning, the group packed up and travelled back to the airport to return home. Overall, it was a pleasant and memorable experience for the St. Columba’s rugby players. We’d like to thank Mr Cron for his efforts in organising the trip, Mr Havenga for his work on the ground and to all the staff that travelled with the pupils. Below is an album of photos from the trip, courtesy of Rev Owen.

A report on the recent Transition Year Leadership Day, by Aeladh Bradley Brady.

On Tuesday the 29th of November, the whole of the Transition Year pupils were taken out of the college on a trip as a lovely surprise and to celebrate receiving our Junior cycle results. Throughout the day we participated in many fun-filled activities. Firstly, we went up Larch Hill to a scouting centre to participate in team bonding activities, organised by Branch Out. We completed many challenges such as trying to untie ourselves in a pair, herding “sheep” and mathematical challenges. This helped us utilise many skills such as communication skills, leadership skills and cooperation skills. This is extremely important and useful for many real-life situations and jobs. Finally, the last task and most rewarding task was to build a fire as we made hot chocolate and s’mores to heat us all up. We had to collect firewood and organise specific roles and jobs for team members to fulfil. The Larch Hill trip was great fun and truly an amazing experience. The Branch Out leaders were very helpful and kind to us during our time spent there. 

After this, we went to Dundrum to ice-skating and see a Christmas movie. It was so enjoyable going ice-skating with all of Form IV and it was thoroughly entertaining to see people who had never skated in their lives attempt to manoeuvre about the rink. Mr Jones and Mr Clarke took wonderful pictures of many pupils mid-fall, attempting to stop their inevitable collapse to the ground. The movie was a great way to end the day as we could all sit back, relax and rest.

On behalf of Transition Year, I would like to thank Mr Jones and Mr Clarke for accompanying and planning this truly amazing trip. Everyone loved it! See a collection of photos from the day below.

Our Bullying Awareness Week provides an opportunity to reflect on how we build and protect relationships across the College. Our theme this year was a simple one – friendship – the cornerstone of any good anti-bullying strategy. Last week, our pupils took part in a wide range of activities with friendship at the centre of the conversation. There was a poetry competition on friendship, won by Delia Brady in Form III while a gratitude tree stood proudly in Whispering House, inviting submissions from every passerby, friendship-themed movie nights, friendship-building games and even an ice-cream van. Fourth Form painted jam jars while Sixth Form spent an evening in Larch Hill doing some friendship and team-building exercises (photo above, more here).

It wasn’t all fun and games though, with plenty of time for the serious conversations around bullying too, in particular online bullying. We were thankful for a series of excellent targeted presentations from Internet safety expert Pat McKenna on “friends online”, reminding everyone of our need to stay safe when using the Internet. Also, we were delighted to welcome Clinton Wokocha who spoke with our younger pupils about the power of words while our Prefects spoke in chapel every morning about the College values and why they matter in the bullying conversation – we even learned a new song in chapel, written by Form V pupil Cameron McKinley.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in a great series of events, reminding us how to be good friends to each other. A particular thanks to Ms Maybury for coordinating the week’s programme.

It’s been another frenetic term in the life of our Transition Year pupils (and their teachers) as they continued to work extremely hard both inside and outside of the classroom. The final term provides further opportunities to experience new opportunities, explore their strengths and weaknesses but gives the pupils a chance to take stock of their academic and extracurricular achievements over the year.

Some of the highlights of this term include our Environmental Awareness Week, with guest speakers OC Raoul Empey and Arctic explorer Alex Hibbert. Pupils constructed a leaf composter on-site, under the watchful eye of Mr. Ryan, and aided local primary school, Whitechurch National School, lay the foundations for their outdoor classroom. There was fundraising for Irish Oesophageal Cancer Fund, the Hope Foundation and the Peter McVerry Trust, and a day of sailing and kayaking in Dun Laoghaire.

A few weeks ago, six TY pupils took part in the Transition Year Academic Prize – an event which allows pupils share their research into an area of their choice. The winner, adjudged by former teacher and current Fellow of the College Alan Cpx, was Hannah von Bergmann with a brilliant presentation on ‘cultured meat’.

There have been other opportunities recently too, to share and reward the academic achievements of our TY pupils. Last week, the Transition Year Modern Languages evening took place with the Sarah Alyn Stacey Cup presented to Jimena Reques Tovar for her achievements in languages this year. Similarly, the Transition Year English Evening saw nine pupils present their creative work in English to their peers and the TY Art pupils exhibited their work in Whispering House to a large crowd. Last night, the final Transition Year Presentation Evening took place with prizes awarded to the top pupil in all subjects and, significantly, the awarding of the annual Spirit of Transition Year. For details of this event click here for a separate post.

Next week, many of our Transition Year pupils will travel to Achill Island next week, signing off the year with a week of outdoor adventures. Many thanks, once again, to Ms Ann Kilfeather and her team for all their work in organising such an amazing, jam-packed programme throughout the year.

There has been lots of activity in Transition Year since their work experience week and half-term, especially for those involved in the Gaisce President’s Award scheme. Some community service was carried out in and around the school while the pupils were also thanked for their contribution to The Hope Foundation. Recently, they helped raise €860 for the charity which works with street children in Calcutta. We were grateful to Alpana Delaney from The Hope Foundation who visited the College to speak with the pupils about the work they do and present them with certificates recognising their work. The Gaisce pupils also volunteered at a charity auction for The Hope Foundation at the Ballsbridge Hotel, which yielded over €20,000 for the charity.

Some TY pupils took part in the Careers in Screen Day 2022, a joint initiative from the Irish Film Institute and Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.  The day started with a showing of The Racer followed by a discussion panel including the film’s Director Kieron J Walsh along with his producers and the Director of Photography. There were talks on Costume Design, Casting, Animation, and the National Talent Academy along with model-making and interviews. It was a terrific day!

Finally, TY pupils from Sustainability and Gaisce modules recently volunteered at our local Whitechurch National School to prepare the foundations for the construction of their outdoor classroom (pictured above). They did fantastic work and we look forward to continuing this work seeing the final product after the Easter break.

Again, many thanks to Ms Kilfeather and all her team for the great work they do with our Transition Yeat pupils.

Our annual Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this week, with a busy programme of activities promoting positive mental health. This year’s theme is based on the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, with a different focus on each of the days. Pupils were encouraged to be active, connect, give, take notice and keep learning, through a variety of activities, both inside and outside the classroom. These include early morning walks, mindfulness moments, movie nights, pottery classes, yoga, judo and much more. Be sure to check out our social media channels for photos of the week’s activities.

It has been yet another busy term so far for Transition Year pupils, with a wide range of activities taking place outside of their normal (and not so normal) classes. There have been visiting speakers, days out and workshops to keep them occupied. Here are a few short pupil reports on some recent events, beginning with a report from Hannah Bergmann on a recent talk from Jackie Fox about the tragic tale of her daughter Coco.

Today we had a talk about a serious and very important topic, which is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common these days. It was very emotional and not only I was very moved by it. It was about the consequences of cyberbullying and physical abuse. To bring us closer to this, Jackie Fox told the story of her daughter Nicole, who took her own life as a young adult after she was abused both mentally and physically. She told us in great detail what happened to Nicole and what went wrong. Especially the sad video at the end of the talk made us all realise what bullying can do to someone and how important it is to do something about it. In the end, I could say that it was probably one of the most emotional talks so far. Although it was very sad, I am thankful that Ms. Fox had the strength to make us understand how important it is to prevent bullying, which I definitely learned from this talk.

We are very grateful to Jackie for taking the time to speak with our pupils about this incredibly important yet difficult topic. It was powerful, with a lingering message. Hugo Laurenceau reports from a recent visit from Patricia Clancy from the Irish Adoption Authority.

Patricia Carey, CEO of the Irish Adoption Authority, came to St Columba’s to talk about The Legalities of Irish Adoption. We were very lucky as a TY group to get this opportunity to listen to someone with so much experience in a field we don’t often talk about. At the beginning, I was expecting that Patricia Carey was going to talk about things I already knew, but the process behind any adoption is so interesting with lots of legal aspects to it. The complex work of getting a child into the right family is so hard and time consuming, but thanks to their work it is possible. I learned so many cool facts about adoption and fostering children that I did not know prior to the talk, but now I and hopefully the rest of TY saw how hard and rewarding it is to place a child with a suitable family. Patricia Carey and her team do tremendous work.

Finally, Catalina Mertes reports on the latest TY activities day which saw our pupils bounce their way around Jump Zone and think their way around GoQuest.

On Tuesday the 1st of February, the whole Transition Year went on a fun trip. We did not know where we were going, because the teachers wanted to keep it a surprise. On the bus ride we were speculating what activities were planned for the day. When we arrived at GoQuest we got split up into groups and had to try to complete as many challenges as possible. Each challenge was in a small room and you had a certain amount of time to complete it. Most of the challenges could only be solved if we worked as a team. I really enjoyed this. After GoQuest we went to JumpZone, a trampoline park. Everyone had a lot of fun there and we tried all of the different games and challenges the park had to offer. I think trampoline dodgeball and the game where you could fight each other with big rolls were the most popular. On our way back to the college everyone was tired but very happy. We had a really great time solving problems in teams and bonding with the whole year.

Aside from these activities, many pupils have also taken part in an architecture project. Next week, all will begin their planned work experience. We are grateful to the many companies and individuals who have provided our pupils with their placements at this unusual time.

Below is the TY photo album, constantly updated and cataloguing photos from throughout the year.

There’s a common misconception that Transition Year (TY) is a “doss-year”, that nothing happens and pupils are bored and rarely challenged. Well, judging from the exceptionally busy programme of events the TY pupils at St. Columba’s have been involved in so far, we can safely say that is not true.

We have a large, diverse, enthusiastic and hard-working Transition Year group this year. While their teachers have been challenging to develop academically, the TY Co-ordinator, Mrs Ann Kilfeather, and her team have been extremely busy providing them with opportunities to develop their interpersonal and extra personal skills.

Earlier in the term, the pupils visited the excellent Causey Farm where they participated in a range of bonding and team-building activities. There was fun and mayhem too with bog jumping, sheep herding and bread-baking. Every year, our TY pupils remark on how much they enjoy that first trip to Causey Farm each year and this year was no exception. We’ve had visiting speakers including former governor of Mountjoy Prison John Lonergan, who remains as engaging as ever, and others from Team Hope (who co-ordinate the excellent Christmas Shoebox Appeal) and the Peter McVeery Trust (more on that to come). They also took part in a motivation and leadership workshop with The Super Generation.

This week is designated the Transition Year Community Week and the pupils had no formal lessons, instead participating in a range of projects aimed at increasing their awareness of cultural, sustainable and equitable community involvement. They all visited Dublin’s Pheonix Park, soaking up the historical, ecological and cultural elements in Europe’s largest urban park. They then visited Dublin Zoo, touring the amazing facilities there before enjoying a presentation on community conservation and sustainability. Two large groups of TY pupils donned their high-visibility vests and travelled to nearby Marlay Park and Sandymount Strand to pick up litter. Continuing that theme, back in the College, some pupils built sustainable bird feeders in an effort to increase biodiversity in the College while others planted vegetables in the new sustainability garden.

There has been a lot of fun this week too. A hike up nearby Kilmashogue Mountain, baking brownies, scones and flapjacks (all delivered and donated to the Rathfarnham Parish Hall), wrapping shoeboxes for the Team Hope appeal and pitching tents for their sleep-out in aid of the Peter McVeery Trust, a wonderful homelessness charity. That sleep out took place last night and luckily the weather stayed dry, although it was very cold. Well done to all who took part, including the staff who supervised.

So, as you can see, it’s been a jam-packed eight weeks for our TY pupils. A “doss-year” I hear you say … I think not. See a selection of photos from the various TY activities below.

 

Transition Year pupils will be taking part in the College’s first ‘Sleep Out’ in aid of the Peter McVerry Trust which works with the homeless population of Ireland. The Sleep Out will take place on the night of Thursday October 21st, 2021. We are appealing for generous donations to the Peter McVeery Trust, with all donations going directly to the charity. If you wish to donate please visit our iDonate page here.

Peter McVerry Trust is a national housing and homeless charity committed to reducing homelessness and the harm caused by substance misuse and social disadvantage.

The charity provides low-threshold entry services, primarily to younger people and vulnerable adults with complex needs, and offers pathways out of homelessness based on the principles of the Housing First model.

We look forward to reporting back on a successful event and fund-raising drive. Stay tuned to the College’s Twitter and Facebook pages.