Pandemic failing to dampen the creative minds of Louisburgh students
HOPE springs eternal at Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh. It may be a well-known aphorism, but its spirit is truly being encouraged at the co-educational school. A light symbolising that ethos shines brightly in one of its windows.
For Principal Pauline Moran, the light ‘encapsulates all that has motivated the staff and students of the Louisburgh school’ throughout the ongoing challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is a word that embodies the spirit of Sancta Maria. The light itself offers hope of brighter days for everyone in the community and also symbolises that even though there is no one in the building we are still here.
“We are here as management and staff to support each other and the school community on an ongoing basis and encourage everyone to look hopefully to the future,” she tells The Mayo News.
This hopefulness is achieved through an optimistic outlook and positive reinforcement, ensuring mental health is bolstered throughout this difficult time, Ms Moran explains.
“Our students are taking up the baton by engaging in tasks wholeheartedly. Hope was there when our TY students created a Christmas display in the reception area with song lyrics and their own poems or quotes that inspire hope. It was there when they organised a collection for ‘Shine a Light’ homeless charity,” she says.
In another initiative, students and staff planted daffodil bulbs in the front lawn last November too which will blossom soon, offering a bright yellow welcome to spring.
Inspired by RTÉ’s ‘Lockdown Letters’, some students are creating short documentaries about their interests and others are interviewing local businesses about the challenges and opportunities Covid-19 has brought.
As well as engaging in a plethora of pastimes and hobbies, such as mindfulness, journaling, baking, and various exercise pursuits, they have also taken part in online debates.
“The purchase of a green screen has inspired the filming of a Christmas carol service, which will be used again as the TYs perform to the camera their choices from a large array of musicals,” Pauline Moran continues.
She observes how the limitations imposed by the current crisis have led to creativity and collaboration amongst teachers and students.
“Sancta Maria has answered the challenges with live classes, pastoral care support, an active Transition Year, supportive year heads. Leaving certs have had inspirational guest speakers, such as Paul O’Brien and Fr Benny McHale, to support them through these challenging and unknown times. A wellness programme is part of our overall Wellbeing Programme, which is delivered to our TY students by John Doherty of Westport Family Resource Centre,” she says.
The school is also one of nine in the country rolling out a MindOut Programme, developed by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway and the HSE’s Health Promotion and Improvement Department.
Ms Moran explains: “It has proven to strengthen young people’s social and emotional coping skills and improve their overall mental health and wellbeing. Our focus is on exam and senior years in particular in recognition of the increased levels of pressure that the current climate has brought about. Students are developing valuable coping skills for life.”
She also stresses how important it is to offer parents support during these stressful times.
Ms Moran was delighted that so many of them joined an online talk last Wednesday presented by leading psychologist Shane Martin. His focus is on ‘building resilience in ourselves and our children, learning how to cope – tapping into our own resources and fostering inner-strengths and hope in order to stay standing during and after this crisis’, she explains.
And so, in all its many and varied initiatives and programmes, this Louisburgh school is doing all it can to ensure that its entire school community feels supported during this time of upheaval.
As its principal concludes: “Sancta Maria’s light of hope is there to drive away the darkness. Long may it shine.”