After 2 years of online grinds and Zoom graduations, participants in the Challenger programme were finally able to come together in person to celebrate their achievements. The Nursing Building in DCU was the venue to host over 100 participants and their families to hear presentations on the programme and witness the awards.
The evening began with an address from Nessan Vaughan, Chairman of the Northside Partnership Board in which he spoke passionately about the benefits of education. This was followed by witty and engaging presentations from students themselves:
The student speakers left us in no doubt that their public speaking classes have been very effective!
Colette Keogh, Senior Access Officer for DCU Access Service, then spoke of the supports available to students who wish to attend DCU. She surprised the audience with the fact that attending 3rd level costs students nothing in fees and reassured them that further financial and personal supports are available to make the experience easier and enjoyable.
Dylan Russell, a Challenger graduate and now 3rd year student in DCU, spoke about his time with Challenger and how it has benefitted him. He praised the student speakers on their talks earlier in the evening and was eloquent in his own speech.
Jeannette Beirnes then spoke about the programme from the perspective of being the coordinator and proudly called on the 6th year students to accept their graduation certificates. Awards for Outstanding Effort, 4th year Programme for Life and STEPS were also presented on the night.
Niamh McTiernan, Director of Services at Northside Partnership, introduced the Dr. Lorcán Ó hÓbáin Education Excellence Award. She spoke of how Lorcán, the previous Chairman of Northside Partnerhip Board, was passionate about his work with the Partnership and what a wonderful mentor he was.
Anne Morris, wife of the late Dr. Ó hÓbáin, then spoke of Lorcán’s passion for education and educational equality, and why this award is such a fitting way to celebrate his life and work. She then presented to award to Sean McHugh, now a 1st year student in DCU, and collected by his sister.
Finally, Janis Tyrell had the audience laughing as she recounted her time on the STEPS programme and she could never understand why the parents did 2 hours a week while their children only had to do 1! “A happy, educated parent makes a happy, educated child,” she said. Adrienne Hayes then presented STEPS certificates to the parents who had completed the personal development course.
MC Declan Cahill, who had kept proceedings moving along all evening, introducing speakers and highlighting key comments, then closed the evening, inviting everyone to partake in refreshments in the Atrium.
It was a wonderful evening, enjoyed by all. There was a great sense of pride in the air, pride in the students, their parents and the Challenger programme itself. As Declan Cahill said in his summations, when we see these young people in action, we are assured that the future is very bright.