Of all the achievements that one can celebrate in school (Football victories, extracurricular success) perhaps the most arduous is that of the perfect score; the 600 point Leaving Cert. One must thoroughly self motivate, work hard from junior years to set out a solid foundation, dedicate themselves most thoroughly to each individual subject and more or less shut themselves off from the world for the 9 months preceding the exams. Some take short-cuts towards high points, but the 600 cannot be spoofed. It takes a special kind of person to achieve near perfection, such as Jarlath’s past pupil Daniel Joyce. With a unique tenacity, he spent hours learning, relearning and revising, aided by teachers but also self propelled. But perhaps the best part of this achievement is how well rewarded one is for their hard work, such as in the case of Mr Joyce who received a scholarship to the Royal College of Surgeons.
His success didn’t end there though. The tenacity and firmness of purpose Daniel had shown in tackling his Leaving Cert was put to good use in university, where he tackled his new course in a similarly thorough manner. Again putting his studies first he found further success, receiving a scholarship in Gynaecology and Obstetrics from the University Board for outstanding achievement.
Mr Joyce is the sort of Doctor you’d want to have, and the sort of student Jarlath’s wishes to produce. Achievements are one thing, but the real victory here is personal; Mr Joyce was given the similar resources and information to that every student in the country is given, and yet managed to twist this into a perfect score. At Jarlath’s we have top-quality teachers, but also and perhaps even more importantly is that we have an atmosphere of achieving. Students are pushed to push themselves, to take the highest level, to take the harder subjects and not be happy with just passing. In Jarlath’s, students are taught to work hard for results and to take pride in that work. Daniel Joyce is an excellent testament to this ideal, and continues to excel at everything he puts his hand to.
It’s a noble thing for a man to do, to help those less fortunate than himself. It’s a sign of a true gentleman, someone who puts the needs of others in such high esteem as to actually legitimately do something for them. In St. Jarlath’s, this is fostered across several levels; the 34 year old Legion of Mary and all its charitable works; the Student Council’s Christmas Charity Raffle; the fledgling Best Buddies society. It is in the last one that Jarlath’s is particularly unique, being one of only a dozen schools in the country to participate in this noble scheme, pairing students with intellectually disabled ‘Buddies’ for their mutual benefit. This programme in its third year in St. Jarlath’s and has by all accounts been a tremendous success, with students really jumping on board and making sure it runs successfully. One of the first people to participate in the scheme was Sean Kearns from Belclare in his Leaving Cert year of 2008-2009. He spent the year not only working hard studying for exams, but also making a difference in people’s lives, through the basic act of making friends.
When Sean graduated from Jarlath’s however, this need to help was still ingrained. His course, nursing in NUIG, was intellectually stimulating, but he felt he wanted to carry on with the “Men for Others” ethos in a more practical way. Seeing that there wasn’t really anything on campus like what he was looking for, he instead decided simply to open a branch of Best Buddies, the first third level branch in Ireland. In the USA, where Best Buddies started, there are active branches across hundreds of Universities, and so there was a precedent, but the NUIG Best Buddies Society was the first third level group in Ireland. What’s more impressive was that this society was set up by a first year. In a year when most are happy to take it relatively easy, being social and chilling out, it takes a special sort of person to take on the role of setting up a new society, especially one with motives such as the Best Buddies Soc.
This hard work and altruism wasn’t ignored however. After a year of general groundwork in setting up the society, as well as organising days out and activities with the buddies, at the end of year awards in NUIG Sean was awarded best fresher at the NUIG soc awards. He then went on to represent NUIG society’s first years at National College level. Unfortunately he didn’t win, though this wasn’t the point. The real victory here was for the people helped by the Best Buddies society throughout the year. We can only wish Sean and all involved with the society the best of luck, and hope that it continues on as strong as it began.