Pilot mentorship programme to help students reach full potential
Principal Adrienne Whelan with Brian Pennie, Hannah Carley and boxer Emmet Brennan, who visited students as a guest speaker

Pilot mentorship programme to help students reach full potential

In a series of weekly articles, we get the full story on the 13 projects awarded funding through the €100k Tallaght Fund, and how each project aims to positively impact the community.

A TALLAGHT school and its students are paving the way for a shift in senior cycle supports after they were awarded €25,000 through a community-based grant scheme.

Killinarden Community School was among 13 successful applicants to the Tallaght Fund, a newly launched grant programme run by the Síol Foundation.

A social enterprise, the Síol Foundation, founded by Tallaght entrepreneur Ed Dunne, is investing €100k annually into the creation of innovative, sustainable and inclusive grassroots projects.

On reviewing the school’s application, the Síol Foundation identified that Killinarden CS was hoping to develop a similar programme to Brian Pennie, a Citywest resident, author and university lecturer who had also applied.

After being connected with Killinarden CS through the Tallaght Fund, Brian is using his lived and academic experience to help develop a pilot youth mentorship programme in collaboration with the school.

Hannah Carley has been based at Killinarden CS for the past 16 years and since 2017, has been a guidance counsellor.

“We approached the Tallaght Fund because we identified a gap in support for senior cycle students within our school, but I believe this gap is nationwide,” Ms Carley told The Echo.

“The drive nationally is for young people to complete the Junior Cert and because of this, there’s a lot of supports within the junior cycle for young people.

“Each year, we’re not far off 100 per cent of students [sitting the Junior Cert] and we maintain this standard.

“However, when students move into the senior cycle, most of these supports end.”

(Back row) Hannah, Brian, Emmet and Sharon (front row) Emma, Reece, Callum and Ben in Killinarden Community School

According to Ms Carley, nationally the junior cycle includes mentoring, supports and vital additional curriculum activities that provide students with a sense of belonging, connecting them to their school and teaching staff.

However, the local school believes that these supports should continue to be available for students as they move into the senior cycle.

“There are students who struggle to stay in school and complete the Leaving Cert,” Ms Carley said.

“Every year there would be a number of students who struggle to manage school independently… and we have put in some measures to support students, like a teacher/student mentoring programme.”

When the Tallaght Fund opportunity arose, Killinarden CS took a chance and applied for funding to develop a programme that would build on senior cycle supports at the school.

This idea fitted well with Brian Pennie, who had applied for funding to develop a life skills programme for young people in the area.

Through this new partnership, a pilot mentoring programme, called Misneach (Irish for courage), is underway at the school since February.

“Brian is taking a personal development approach to the programme, which allows students space to develop skills that can also help them prepare for the world after school,” Ms Carley said.

Alongside one session per week with Brian, visits from speakers such as boxer Emmet Brennan, and outdoor trips, each participating student is assigned a mentor from teaching staff.

Students, who create a personal action plan, meet with their mentor once a week and also link in with the school’s guidance team.

“The hope is that with additional support and encouragement these students will be enabled to stay in education and complete their Leaving Cert,” Ms Carley said.

“There is a focus on the wellbeing of students, the senior cycle can be very focused on academic achievement.

“There are students in every school who have to carry a lot more challenges and this programme hopes to enable these students to reach their full potential too.”

Some of the funding awarded through the Tallaght Fund will also provide students with access to training when they leave Killinarden CS.

According to Ms Carley, the fund will pay for certified training courses for each young person on the programme, with students being encouraged to expand their knowledge of potential career opportunities.

The young people participating in the first year of the programme are playing an important role in helping to develop new supports for students coming behind them.

According to one student taking part: “My view on the programme is very positive and I enjoy doing it.

“I feel like it is starting to help me in school a lot and I am very interested in it.”

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