“We celebrate not just our final achievement but the journey made towards it”
Last week we gathered as a community to celebrate the many achievements of our students. Our Annual Awards Night is an opportunity to recognise the many gifts and talents of the young people we work with. Their journeys through education have not always run smoothly which makes all the more tangible and important what they have achieved. In line with our model of work and philosophy our awards are wide-ranging and recognise not just academic but social, personal and community contributions and achievements. Students on the night were awarded for their achievements in areas ranging from Maths, History and Japanese, to poetry, rowing, public speaking, singing, piano-playing and mentorship to fellow students. Awards celebrate not only complete mastery of an area but the many important milestones along the way.
The evening was full of poignant moments including a moving recitation of her award winning poem ‘If You Could See Me Again’ by student Megan O’ Sullivan addressing the issue of bullying, performances by our talented music group and our choir. For our 6th year students the night is a particularly emotional one as they gather with the whole Cork Life Centre community perhaps for the last time. Two of our nine Leaving Certificate students put pen to paper on behalf of the group and addressed the audience on the night. In the weeks running up to the awards night these speeches were securely hidden away from staff but now with the permission of the students we would like to share them. For us these speeches put into some context the meaning and importance of young people to have access to a suitable educational environment, one where there is an acceptance of the individual and an acceptance that one size does not fit all, and perhaps most importantly the need for young people to have somewhere to belong.
Melissa O’ Sullivan
“ As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected for something good, I was actually being redirected to something better “
A quote I live by every day of my life.
As a thirteen year old girl I had seen more negativity than would be considered safe for the mental capacity of my thirteen year old self. I had been mistreated, misplaced and most certainly misunderstood, until one day my feet found me in the Life Centre’s counselling room. I can remember being terrified as I opened up about my experiences to Don. He took me in and promised me a new start, a promise which he stayed true to. I finally started to learn to trust again.
Months passed by and then the months became years and I can now say that these years have most definitely been the best of my life. Those five years have been absolutely chaotic but in the most incredible way. My best memories were made with the staff and students of the Life Centre, from all the Wexford trips where Lily Allen would be blasted to all the conferences in Dublin where Don would have to stop at least 30 times for a cup of tea!…..
I remember fondly the days learning about French colours using a packet of jelly tots or sitting on the grass when the weather would allow. I cherish all the meaningful chats that would be had over a cup of tea at lunch. I could go on about my memories in the Life Centre…..but there isn’t enough hours in the day.
I would love to thank Don, Rachel and Thomas for the endless opportunities I have been given, like my trip to India and the support to go back a second time. To Craig and Aoife, thank you for getting me involved in the Edmund Rice Camps. I’d like to thank all the staff and students who I’ve had the pleasure to be around and who have helped me grow, especially to Courtney and Jack who have been my strength for the last four years.
Thank you to Gary for without him none of this would be possible, I remember in my boxing days when I was fighting and I looked into the crowd to see Gary and I couldn’t have been happier. There was no better person than Gary to keep you updated on the Irish boxing. You are one in a million.
I am eternally grateful for all the support and guidance I have received over the last five years and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The centre made me the person I am today and words aren’t enough to describe how I feel to have been a part of the centre.
There have been both tears of laughter and tears of sorrow. I always knew I was never alone. Thank you to everyone for making my journey one I will never forget and thanks to Don for keeping my head up high, but in the books at the same time!
Courtney O’ Shea:
Well I don’t know where to start because I usually don’t stand up in big crowds like this and speak, but I think this year is an exception. I’m here in the Life Centre four and a half years and if Don didn’t take me I don’t know where I’d be today. The connection I have with the teachers and students in here is incredible and it broke my heart to even write these words-because as they say I’m the ‘Mammy’ of the students because I give out to them if they aren’t in class….. but I wouldn’t be in class myself.
The strength and confidence Don, Rachel and other staff have given me-you have no idea.
We’ve had our arguments….a lot of them… but family always come back to each other. If I didn’t have this school standing beside me every step of the way I’d be lost today and I certainly wouldn’t be standing here talking to ye now.
To know that this is my last year in here is breaking me in two.
I would also like to say that when we do call back to visit, it’s going to be very hard not seeing the most amazing, kind-hearted teacher….my lovely French teacher Aoife.
You have been there with us from the start, it’s so sad to see you go, the best thing was you wouldn’t leave until we did and I want you to know we are going to miss you and we love you so much!
So I think that’s me, I couldn’t go through any more heartbreak writing more words. Before I finish up I want to say thank you so much to my best friends-that have been there from the start, helping me to get where I need to be and standing with me and pushing my strength to do it. Thanks to all the teachers who stuck around with us as much as we gave out.
At last but not least to the four most amazing people Aoife, Rachel, Thomas and the most incredible man in the world Don O’ Leary. Just take one good look at us and realise if it wasn’t for ye we wouldn’t be here but now it’s time for us to spread our wings and go onto bigger and better things thanks to ye.
On behalf of all the 6th years we love ye so much, we are going to miss ye like a hole in the head but we will do ye proud.
On behalf of the 6th year students-myself, Courtney/Melissa, Amy, Aisling, Jemma, Conor, Konain, Jack and Nico, I would like to thank everyone at the Life Centre from the bottom of our hearts.
‘ No man is an island’ so thank you for helping each and every one of us feel welcome, wanted, and feel loved.