WITH the opening of Skibbereen’s amalgamated secondary school in September, there was a palpable sense of nostalgia during the final Mercy Heights Secondary School awards night in the West Cork Hotel.
Michelle O’Brien, MC for the night, welcomed the large crowd to the annual event and introduced guest of honour Dr Noirin Russell; Karen Sheane, (principal); Michael Lucitt, Board of Management chairperson and Deirdre Connolly of the student council.
Karen Sheane said it gave her a great sense of pride to be associated with such fine students and staff.
She acknowledged the 80-year history of the school, which has touched and shaped the lives of thousands of people through the years, instilling deep-rooted values of care and respect.
She encouraged each of the students to continue to strive for excellence, continue to ‘push’ themselves and continue to achieve.
She ended with words from JK Rowling: ‘We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already, we have the power to imagine better.’
Majella Ni Charthaigh introduced guest of honour, Dr Russell, a past pupil of Mercy Heights, who now works as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Cork University Maternity Hospital.
She accredited Mercy Heights with giving her a wonderful education and a special love of the sciences, both Irish and French language and culture. Noirin was the first to wear the royal blue uniform in 1989 when it replaced the tan and brown, so it was fitting she presided over the final awards ceremony, one of the last official occasions the royal blue uniform would be worn.
Dr Russell spoke very warmly of her school years at the school, adding it helped to shape the person she is today and she has wonderful memories and close friends from those years.
In an inspirational and educational speech, Dr Russell spoke directly to the award winners. ‘I wholeheartedly congratulate you on your achievements. You have all shown yourselves to be leaders and as such there will be great opportunity for you in the years ahead as you follow your own particular passion,’ she told them.
She outlined some of the challenges and pressures facing this generation of youth. These include ‘the constant pressure to be thinner, cooler, funnier’. She advised the students on the careful use of social media: ‘Remember – once you post anything, a photo, comment, thoughts, dreams – once it’s out there, it’s out there for all to see. It can be fun, but can also be destructive and used to bully, belittle and degrade.’
She referred to statistics of teenage alcohol and drug addiction and advised the students to ‘watch out for each other and be a good friend. And self-education is key’.
She also spoke of the importance of exercise and healthy eating in life. ‘These are essential in combating the health epidemic of our time – obesity. Promise yourselves to take care of your health. The groundwork starts now’.
She offered the students the following advice: ‘Too often success is measured by money and status. Be wary of chasing these goals, as they are no guarantee of happiness. Instead, be true to yourself, follow your passion.
‘Be the best that you can be, don’t panic, maintain an open mind and you will find your path. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and at all times remain anchored to your family.
‘That bond between your family and closest friends will help you through the tough times and raise you higher than you thought possible during the good times.’
She finished with the words: ‘Continue to be leaders in your chosen field and set an example for those coming behind.’
Students’ Council representative Deirdre Connolly made a presentation to Dr Russell after the speeches.
Award winners on the night were:
Best Contribution to Football: Enya Breen and Rachel Whelton.
Best Contribution to Basketball: Kate O Connell.
Best Contribution to a Sporting Activity: 2nd year All Ireland Basketball finalists
Deirdre O Sullivan, Lisa Harte, Rachel O’Donovan, Katie Cronin, Eimear Collins, Elaine O’Brien, Siadbh Redmond, Triona Murphy, Lana Dillane, Orla O’Driscoll, Kate Dineen, Mollie O’Connell, Kate O’Donovan, Laura O’Mahony and Kate O’Connell.
Best Contribution to a Sporting Activity outside of school: Aisling Kelly.
Excellent Attendance Awards: 1st year: Sarah Buckley, Maggie McCarthy, Helen O’Brien, Caoimhe Casey, Eabha Lucey, Aoife O’Driscoll, Saoirse Connolly, Aine Geoghegan. 2nd year: Nicole O’Brien, Jennifer Dorrington, Grainne O’Driscoll, Clodagh O’Neill, Kim Scharf. 3rd year: Jennifer Collins, Rachel O’Donovan, Gillian Barry, Aoife O’Donovan, Megan Collins, Chloe Crowley, Caoimhe Harnedy, Jessica McCarthy, Molly McQueen, Christina McCarthy. 4th year: Emma O’Driscoll, Alice Baudains, Fiona Hallahan, Ellen McCarthy, Sinead O’Brien, Rachel Whelton. 5th Year: Enya Breen, Olivia Collins, Mary Finn, Lauren Buckley, Maria Carey, Amie O’Donovan. 6th years: Deirdre Connolly, Alison Dillane, Alison O’Donovan, Helen O’Farrell. Past 6th years: Eimear O’Regan, Rose O’Driscoll, Niamh Casey, Mary Kate Forde, Kate Cooke, Rebecca O’Regan, Lorraine O’Donovan.
Best Contribution to the Arts: Jessica McCarthy, Claire O’Donovan, Saoirse O’Connor and Hannah Perna-O’Shea.
Best Contribution to the Culinary Arts: Ellen McCarthy, Susannah Keohane.
Best Contribution to the Musical & Dramatic Arts: the musical productions of ‘Grease’ and ‘Nightmare before Christmas’. This award was accepted by Louise Gallagher, Molly O’Driscoll and Rachel O’Donovan on behalf of both productions.
Best Contribution to Debating: Kate O’Regan.
Best Contribution to the Debating in Irish: Aisling Fitzgerald, Mary Therese Coughlan, Helen Coughlan.
Best Contribution to the Community: ‘Friday Luncheon Music Group’ group comprising Helen Coughlan, Maria Carey, Mary Therese Coughlan, Amie O’Donovan, Louise O’Sullivan, Aoife O’Driscoll, Aisling Fitzgerald, Abbey McCarthy, Clodagh Byrne, Naomi O’Donovan, Leah O’Regan, Katie McCarthy and Anna Keohane.
The Mercy Ethos Award: Megan Collins, Aoife O’Donovan, Weronika Malinouska and Shauna O’Donovan.
The Transition Year Activity of the Year award: ‘The Sunshine Squad’ group comprising Aileen Logan, Emily Hegarty, Maria Carey, Rachel O’Driscoll, Elena Forde, Katie Gunn, Helen Coughlan, Orla O’Driscoll and Aoife O’Regan.
The Principal’s award: ‘The Health And Fitness Group’ of Aisling Fitzgerald, Olivia Collins, Kayley Crowley, Aisling Crowley, Ellie O’Sullivan, Kelly Sharpe, Clare Coombes, Enya Breen, Emma Daly, Nicola Beamish, Rebecca Beamish, Cliodhna Lee, Micheala Hodnett and Louise O Sullivan.
The Educational Endeavour award: Karen McCarthy.
The Gaisce Awards: Caoimhe Leonard, Ellena Gutteridge, Maria Carey, Aisling Fitzgerald, Kathleen Nora Maguire, Mary Therese Coughlan, Elena Forde, Julianne Leonard, Emily Hegarty, Katie McCarthy, Enya Breen, Jane Hurley, Lauren O’Donovan, Orla O’Driscoll, Catherine Collins, Kate O’Regan, Abbey McCarthy, Leah O’Regan, Gemma O’Driscoll, Anna Keohane, Aoife Harrington, Eimear O’Driscoll, Kelly Sharpe, Emma Hickey, Ellie O’Sullivan, Clare Coombes, Anna Keohane, Hannah O’Regan, Sinead Peppard, Deirdre Burchill, Aileen Logan, Charlie Petford, Clodagh Byrne, Aoife McCarthy, Alice Whooley, Olivia Collins, Lisa McCarthy, Samantha O’Sullivan, Hanna O’Regan, Naomi O’Donovan, Aisling Crowley, Fiona O’Keefe, Helen Coughlan, Nicola Beamish, Claire Barrett, Louise O’Sullivan, Mary Finn, Lauren Buckley, Michaela Hodnett, Niamh Burns, Cliodhna Lee and Aoife Crowley.
European Community Spirit award: Charlie Petford, Anna Keohane, Katie McCarthy, Katelyn Bravo.
Junior Certificate awards: Aoife Casey, Sheila O’ Driscoll, Susannah Keohane, Anna Hendy, Grace O’Sullivan, Eimear Connolly, Rachel Whelton, Alicia O’Neill.
Leaving Certificate awards: Naomi Burke, Sarah Jane Cronin, Laura O’Brien, Niamh O’Driscoll, Rose O’Driscoll, Lorraine Kelleher, Ellen Somers, Sophie Perry, Mary Kate Forde, and Katie Deasy.
The Niamh Cadogan award: Margaret O’Regan.
Overall Achievement of the Year: The Walton’s music Group comprising Hannah Collins, Denise Marcos, Molly McQueen, Lily Connell Bass, Niamh Lynch, Elaine O’Brien, Saoirse Doolan, Anna Kavanagh, Kate O’Connell, Mary Therese Coughlan, Katie Harte, Alicia O’Driscoll, Helen Coughlan, Kate Dineen, Briana O’Shea, Maria Carey, Briana Daly, Brigid O’Sullivan, Abbey McCarthy, Emilia Cooper, Aoife Whooley, Amie O’Donovan, Aideen Bohane, Eimear Collins, Aoife O’Driscoll, Megan Afleck Keogh, Issie Murran, Gemma O’Driscoll, Rachel O’Driscoll, Hanna O’Regan, Leah O Regan, Catherine Collins, Siadbh Redmond, Louise O’ Sullivan, Elena Forde, Megan Collins, Eimear McCarthy, Hazel Barclay.
The Junior Student of the Year Award (Frank Galvin Award): Sheila O’Driscoll.
The Senior Student of the Year Award (Sr Perpetua Award): Sarah Jane Cronin.