St. Colm’s High School wins TES Award for the second time
St. Colm’s High School is rightly proud of their pupils, Cornstore Youth Club members, Ballinascreen Fold residents, Men's Shed volunteers and S.T.E.P.S. who were all involved in the Ballinascreen Inter-generational Project, which won the TES 2020 Community and Collaboration Award. The winning project was announced at the TES School Awards virtual ceremony on Friday 13th November. The award entry stated, “The bridging of the gap between generations benefited both age groups, developing good community relations stretching far beyond the timescale of the project.” The lead judge Tim Brighouse said: “I am hugely impressed and reassured that there are so many altruistic staff in schools who continue to walk not just the extra mile but daily marathons almost to unlock the talent of their students.”
The initiative led by Michelle Belaid, Youth Leader in the Youth Club, was inspired by Nancy Hegarty, a member of Ballinascreen Fold. Pupils from St. Colm’s and Cornstore Youth Club, supported by the Men's Shed, teamed up with members of the local Ballinascreen Fold, to improve their outside space and socialise with them. Local charity S.T.E.P.S also advised the group on inclusion activities for the health and well-being of pupils and Fold members. Together they developed an Eco-friendly garden for the residents, built bird boxes, wed overgrown areas, and planted wildflower seeds. They made birdfeeders for the garden in Youth Club, with pupils and members of the Fold making fat-balls with Clare Devlin, Eco-coordinator in St. Colm’s. As a result, Fold members enjoyed seeing many more birds visit their garden and spent more time outdoors. Pupils visited and entertained members of the Fold who also held entertainment nights providing music and refreshments for them. The Cornstore Youth Club organised pizza and quiz nights for Fold members at the Youth Club. Staff and pupils planned to make a wildflower garden feature and seating from recycled materials before Covid-19, instead sending Easter cards to Fold members promising to be back! Nancy believed the project transformed some of the resident's lives. She said that from the project started the residents took ownership of the garden, applied for a small grant and invested in a greenhouse where they now grow their own plants and vegetables. In September we were delighted to visit the Fold delivering Live Here Love Here ‘Food for thought’ grow packs and an ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalists Award certificate for Eco-Health and Well-being. This award had also been streamed live, on Thursday 21st May, with judges describing the project as heart-warming, bringing a tear to many of their eyes. We had a tour of the grounds showing fantastic work that had continued in lockdown.
The TES Award also recognised excellent partnerships within the local community, between St. Colm's pupils and staff, local primary schools, S.T.E.P.S, the Men’s Shed, local businesses, parishes of Ballinascreen and Desertmartin, Ballinascreen GAA, Draperstown Celtic and Workspace. Local litter blitzes and eco-friendly planting activities are carried out regularly by schools and parish groups, supported by Mid-Ulster District Council and Eco-schools NI. Last October St. Colm’s Eco-club raised £2100 through a coffee morning for S.T.E.P.S and Macmillan Cancer, with every business in the town sponsoring refreshments and prizes. Staff and pupils worked together to ensure it was a fantastic day. Karen Mc Guigan, from S.T.E.P.S, spoke at the event, discussing the services they provide, the importance of addressing the stigma of suicide and mental health, and the benefits on health of bringing people together to socialise. Susan’s Trail, a biodiversity trail in the grounds of St. Colm’s displays a visual reminder to visitors that it is ‘Ok not to be ok’ beside the tree they planted to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of S.T.E.P.S. It is a very special community area, a peaceful haven with an area of reflection with native trees planted in the memory of family and friends, and a fantastic area for outdoor learning. In the summer of 2019, the Zachary Geddis Break the Silence Trust chose Susan’s Trail as a special place to donate their beautiful bird table in memory of Ronan Mc Guigan. Ronan’s father, Malachy, together with colleagues in the Men’s Shed, continues to be a driving force in caring for this area alongside St. Colm’s Eco- members.
Principal Mrs Roisin McKenna said
“Winning another prestigious TES Award two years in a row is absolutely amazing. The TES judges said the Ballinascreen Intergenerational Project made community relationships blossom. Under the leadership of Mrs Clare Devlin the connections with many outside agencies through eco has been phenomenal and this award is a testimony to this tremendous work and is richly deserved. All groups work together for the good of the parish and the health and wellbeing of St. Colm’s High School and the wider community. It is particularly heartwarming to receive this positive award during these challenging times”.