Peter Anderson, Fr Joe McGrath, Tibor Olah, Daniels Voronovs. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
While hundreds of Longford students are celebrating good Leaving Certificate results, there are many others who are not feeling quite as elated.
Speaking to the Longford Leader last week, Fr Joe McGrath was quick to comment that the Leaving Cert isn't the be all and end all.
“The big day for all of us as teachers and parents is the day that the results come out,” said the St Mel's College teacher.
“But what’s crucial is that the Leaving Cert does not define you. It’s just a bridge to cross. If you did very well, that’s great. If things didn’t go according to plan, that’s not the end of the world. It just takes a bit of reimagination, revisioning and looking again at what’s our best way forward.”
It's all about “the message of hope”, he continued, adding that there's always a way forward for everyone.
“There are far more opportunities now for people to go to college and progress in life than there were years ago.
“And that’s what we try to tell the lads here. Even if your Leaving Cert results haven’t gone according to plan, there are other avenues.
“There are lots of ways to go about picking a way forward and finding what’s the best thing to do.
“It’s that message of hope. Keep going. Find another way. There are plenty of different avenues. Make the best of it.”
There's a deep understanding in the county of young people's mental health and how important it is to encourage Longford's youth to talk about their problems and ensure the right help is available.
“All of us are very conscious of young people’s mental health and how they cope with setbacks and obstacles or things that go wrong,” Fr McGrath explained.
“Our perspective then is just about concentrating and the resilience with them. You have a setback, you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you go again and you keep going forward.
“All of us are involved in helping young people develop a positive strong confidence in themselves that whatever hills and valleys they come across, they’re able to get by them.
“The principal here in Mel’s will always say that school isn’t for everyone - it just doesn’t suit them and the way of life and exams and learning, it just doesn’t suit some young people who would be better off learning through experience, learning through work , maybe onsite wherever that might be.”
Many students in St Mel's College - and, indeed, the other schools around the county - would have found school very beneficial, while others may just be happy to have gotten through it.
“School might not have been their thing, but now they’ll really begin to flourish,” said Fr McGrath.
“They’ll go into the workplace or get an apprenticeship or they’ll begin to travel the world and they’ll begin to discover who they really are and hopefully the basic foundation that they got here will provide them with some stepping stone into the future.”