Conor gave this address on 14th January 2017 at our Open Day.
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our school My name is Conor Quayle and I came to an open day at Shimna and straight away chose to move to integrated education by applying to Shimna Integrated College in my P7 year. I was delighted when I received confirmation that I was accepted, even though I live in Ardglass which is quite a distance away, I was more than happy to travel for the privilege of Integration. The ethos of Integration, academic excellence and student centeredness is very important to me. Shimna has given me the opportunity to study the subjects I love right through to A level. We are so lucky at Shimna where the teaching staff is concerned. They are all so approachable, willing to help you at all times and they really encourage us to achieve the best we possibly can. I have chosen mathematics, Irish, moving image arts and performing arts. The breadth of choice enables me to keep my career options open. My first love is performance, and Shimna has offered me opportunities to perform in a wide variety of productions, including whole school productions such as “Grease” and “Bugsy Malone”, in studio pieces designed and scripted by our drama group and also in our upcoming whole school production “Alice in Pantoland”, devised and developed by ourselves. You will see posters as you make your way around the school. You can see our beautiful set taking shape behind me. You will be very welcome to join our audience on the 25th and 26th January.
Moving Image Arts was new as a GCSE subject to our school, but we were supported in making a real success of it. Not only did we achieve excellent results, but we won a Carson Bursary, presented to us by Baroness May Blood and by Frank Carson’s son, Tony. The bursary awarded us the funding to develop and make our own film, which is a very exciting prospect. In the same year, our art department also won a Carson Bursary for a painting project focusing on identity.
I love maths, and even though the subject might seem out of place alongside my other A levels, I believe that maths gives my study programme academic depth. I might like to find myself established as a performer or film maker, and my mathematical ability will enable me to manage my affairs, perhaps found my own theatre company.
Finally, I love languages, and, having studied Spanish and Irish, I have chosen Irish to take through to A level. For any media person in Northern Ireland, from whichever of our communities, Irish can be a distinct advantage. I appreciate learning alongside bilingual Irish speakers in my class, the opportunity to work with our Irish language assistant, to travel to the Gaeltacht and to experience Irish as a living language alongside fellow students studying French, German and Spanish. Shimna offers so many extra-curricular trips and activities. As well as the Gaeltacht there are many other opportunities for trips such as a Spanish trip, French trip, ski trip and a history trip to Berlin which I took part in, and would definitely recommend to anyone.
Integration to me has meant the opportunity to work in teams with others who come from background just like my own and from very different backgrounds. We don’t always agree, we certainly don’t share assumptions, but the challenge of integration is to explore our differences and to work together in a spirit of respect. I play for the senior rugby squad, and our team includes committed rugby players, gaelic players and soccer players all of which adds up to a great range of ball skills. Several of the team have taken up a new additional sport which they have only come across because they play in an integrated team in Shimna. As well as after school sports there is also the chance to take part in the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award which I am half way through and thoroughly enjoying. I am very privileged to be able to have a placement at the BBC for my work experience next month.
In my experience, Shimna has done exactly what it says on the tin. I have made so many friends whom I will hopefully have throughout my life. I have achieved excellent academic results, am thoroughly enjoying studying for A level and the very special thing is that I have achieved all this while working together with friends from across the community, broadening my horizons and offering me a route to contribute to the Integrated Northern Ireland I trust that we are building together.