BY SIOBHÁN CRONIN
OVER 340 transition year (TY) students from West Cork took part in a Student Enterprise Conference hosted by the Local Enterprise Office in Inchydoney Lodge and Spa on Tuesday.
The Leaders on Our Level conference was held for students undertaking the West Cork Schools Enterprise Programme which sees them set up and run their own mini enterprises.
A selection of personalities, including astronaut Chris Hadfield, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Polar explorer Mark Pollock, broadcaster Henry McKean and journalist Brendan O’Connor, all sent special video messages with the advice they would give their 16-year-old selves.
Students also heard from speakers in person, including Bríd Ryan, (Queen B Athletics); Kevin Buckley, (Spearline Labs); Peter Nagle, Bitcove and fitness instructor Niall O’Callaghan.
Addressing the pupils, Kevin Buckley, who employs more than 20 people in Skibbereen, emphasised the importance of having a vision, believing in it and having the strength to follow it through.
He encouraged the students to think big, travel and appreciate where they come from. ‘Faraway hills are green but home is where the heart is,’ he told them.
Peter Nagle, a 23-year-old entrepreneur from Rosscarbery, who set up Bitcove with his brother James, told the students that the youth of today are not the leaders of tomorrow – they are the leaders of today.
The Student Enterprise programme has been in existence since 2004 where students are exposed to all the realities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in every stage of business development, from market research and production to sales and marketing.
Each school will compete with their mini enterprises in the regional finals next February where one team will be chosen to represent West Cork and their school at the National Finals in Croke Park. The video messages included Enda Kenny’s advice to ‘have an open and enquiring mind and dream big dreams’ and Mark Pollock’s advice: ‘The impossible has been made possible time and time again through human endeavour, so go out and make the impossible possible.’
Chris Hadfield urged the students to ‘have a long term dream’. He added: ‘Enjoy the small things along the way, but always keep your goal in mind. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from a small town in Canada, or West Cork, you can make your dream a reality.’
Henry McKean urged them to ‘tell that girl or guy that you like them – go for it’. Don’t do something because your mum or dad told you to, he suggested, but make sure to travel, be polite, say please and thank you, follow your heart and smile!’
Cork journalist Brendan O’ Connor advised: ‘Don’t let people put you down. Ask the stupid questions because the answers to those questions can lead you to amazing places.’