Kirsten Diamond from our year 14, gave her speech at our Open Day

 

 

Hi.  I am Kirsten Diamond and I am an A level student at Shimna studying English literature, French, politics and history.  I knew when I came here that I wanted to make the very most of my education.  I wanted and Integrated education, but I wanted a vision of Integration which is broader than just about religion; I wanted an excellent academic education, and I wanted it to be about more than just my subjects; I wanted a school I could be fully involved in.

 

I wanted an academic education, and I am delighted that my results so far show academic success.  However, I have taken every opportunity Shimna has offered me to experience more.  I have recently sent off my university applications and plan to study English literature and French.  Through Shimna, I gained a place on an English literature summer school in Villiers Park, Cambridge, which gave me the opportunity to study literary theory, to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and to become even more enthusiastic about my study of literature.

 

In support of my A level in French, I will be heading off to France next week with others in my class, for European work experience in St Jean de Luz.  Shimna’s long term connections there have enabled me to organise interviews with local politicians and community leaders.

 

During my A level years, I have also taken part in the Living Law Programme, at the offices of the Attorney General, attended films at Queens Film Theatre, undertaken teamwork at Greenhill YMCA, and I have led assemblies .  During my younger years, I have attended athletics tournaments and taken part in the Young Enterprise Business Programme.

 

 

I went to a single identity primary school.  There wasn’t an Integrated primary near where I lived, so it was a priority for me to find an Integrated post primary school.  One of my A level subjects is politics, so you will understand that the political situation and the issues on which we disagree and which sometimes divide us, are very important to me.  But I wanted to take Integration further.  One of the most isolated groups in our society is the number of children who suffer homophobic bullying, who find themselves called gay, no matter what their actual sexuality.  We had a wonderful art therapist working with us one year, whose husband was studying at Yale University School of Divinity, and who was a member of Yale GayStraightAlliance.  The idea of a people coming together, no matter what their sexuality, to raise awareness and work to end bullying really appealed to us, and we founded the first ever GayStraightAlliance in any school in Northern Ireland.  We have been amazed at the level of support we have had.  Not only did we win a Diana Award, not only did the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Unions present us with an award, but our school received letters literally from across the world from people whose family has been affected by homophobic bullying.  When you are enjoying your tea and buns in our canteen, please raise your eyes to see the two colourful murals our GayStraightAlliance painted to symbolise the full meaning of Integration across religion, culture, politics, gender, class and sexuality.

 

I am really proud of our GSA, but I am equally proud that our students are so actively involved in our Amnesty International group, our Scripture Union, contribution to our Umbrella blog for people of all faiths or none.  What I value about Integration is not that we all come to agree, but that we all vigorously disagree, but live and learn together.

When I applied to Shimna seven years ago, I didn’t know a single person, and I was quite nervous.  Fast forward to now, and I have made so many lifelong friends, and have great memories to take with me when I leave.  I personally feel that I have thrived in this environment and in the welcoming atmosphere of Shimna, with sociable students and friendly staff.  I hope as many of you as possible will have the same opportunities to come to Shimna and to receive the same opportunities and support that I have.

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