Returning to Loreto one last time

Tuesday November 19th 2013

Eiméar’s presentation to the Year 13 and 14 Pupils of Loreto College Coleraine:

Sometimes I wish I was back in your shoes standing here in assembly … then I wise up and remember the dread of being handed a make-up wipe and nail polish remover whilst practically being able to see your own breath in the sub-zero temperatures of this room. Although in fairness it did serve me well for moving into my igloo in Belfast.

Year 14- if your first few months back were anything like mine you will have come to learn that UCAS is not your friend (no matter how much the careers department tries to tell you otherwise), getting syked up got tea at break time and realising Conor forgot the teabags is enough to ruin your entire week, 18ths most weekends are more important than any form of homework, and your main process of thought is Santa Ponsa or Maga 2014.

Year 13 – UCAS and personal statements are all ahead of you – just enjoy the comfy chairs and free periods while you can. And your first LCC formal of course. But be warned, the common room door is a strict no entry policy.

But I’m not here to give you another lecture on your futures – you’ve had enough of them already. I’m here to keep the ripple effect of the Michaela Foundation going, so that you can all share in the life changing experience I, amongst many others have undergone.

I first heard about the Student Award’s Scheme flicking through twitter one night trying as usual to postpone another RE essay. At first glance, the thought of yet another application form turned my stomach, but after further reading I soon realised this was a whole new kettle of fish. The Michaela Foundation didn’t care what your module grades in Biology are, or your English coursework, Economics diagrams, Geography case studies, the lot. It is about you as a person. You don’t need to big yourself up in any way, shape or form. If you did I wouldn’t be standing here. I was never the lead in the musical, or head of school, I never achieved anything even worth talking about. The foundation awarded me for being me – a feeling that I can’t really put into words.

Now, every month, myself and the five other scholars write a blog 0 one of which goes in the Irish News whilst the other five go online. So if Miss Curry’s reems of Geography notes really aren’t taking your fancy, go have a read and get a feel for what uni life is like from your average students who experience the nights out, the choice between make up and breakfast for 9am lectures, and the importance of oven switches and smoke alarms.

I can’t encourage you all enough to apply for the Student Awards Scheme – it will open up doors for you that you never imagined possible. Plus the £1000 bursary isn’t something worth complaining about. If the Student Awards Scheme isn’t for you thought, try to get involved in other ways through the Summer Camps or just general fundraisers – I promise it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

Coming from a different part of the country, perhaps we didn’t know Michaela personally – however as a school community we could only imagine the loss she was to her friends and family. Being part of the Foundation, I have come to understand that whilst Michaela is missed dearly every day by those who knew her, her spirit very much lives on in the lives of others.

The Michaela Foundation isn’t just a charity – we’re a family. In all honesty, I really didn’t like my first few weeks in Belfast. But the friendly faces of Úna amongst many others I saw regularly through Michaela Fundraisers made me realise I was never a far cry from home – maybe not back in the Glen, but in the company of people whom I knew I could always turn to.

Finally year 13 and 14 – enjoy these last few months and years of school. I know the road ahead seems daunting, but a few weeks ago Micky Harte told the Michaela Scholars to “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change”. Focus on the positives – like the formal, the end of school year, and of course the throwing of Head Boy into the pond. Remember that no matter how tough the going gets, give it your all, that’s all anyone can ask. And never ever forget that life really does exist without limits.