The annual prize giving ceremony took place at the College on Tuesday 18th September 2018. Acting Principal, Mrs Passmore opened the proceedings with her address. In welcoming all the prize winners and their parents, she offered her congratulations to all of them, to the pupils for their individual achievements and to the parents, for their unwavering support and encouragement. She too thanked all the teaching and support staff for their dedication and commitment. Mrs Passmore said, ‘Integrated education celebrates the achievements of all our young people, of all abilities. As an integrated school we see talent and potential in everyone, which we value, nurture and encourage; we successfully educate our young people together. We don’t simplify success by top grades alone but rather focus on the entire journey each young person makes on their way to reaching their goals both inside and out of the classroom setting.’
Mrs Passmore was joined on stage by three representatives from the Board of Governors, Jim McCartney, Sandra Phoenix and Helen Mc Reynolds who is also a former pupil of the College. The guest speaker at the ceremony was Mr Ciarna Halferty.
Ciarna Halferty, is a former pupil of Oakgrove Integrated College in Derry/Londonderry. He studied History and Politics at University before being elected President of the Students’ Union at Queen’s. Following this he went on to become President of the ‘National Union of Students – Union of Students in Ireland’ where he helped lead the successful defeat of attempts to raise NI university tuition fees to £9000 per year. His interest in politics, which first developed at his time at Oakgrove, led him to first join Amnesty International- the world’s leading human rights organisation. After a number of years campaigning on a range of local and international human rights issues he joined their Board of Directors for six years, including two years as their UK Chairperson. In this role he championed extending Amnesty’s presence to the global south and extending their work to include campaigns on economic, social and cultural rights.
In addition to Northern Ireland, he has lived and worked in a number of different places including Dublin, London, Dubai, Beirut and Oman. He recently returned to Northern Ireland where he is a trustee of a number of organisations, whose work varies from supporting refugees fleeing conflict zones to working with our NHS to give patients a voice in the development of public health policy. Most recently he has been working advising government and civil servants across a number of UK regions to ensure LGBT+ children, young people and their parents are adequately supported and have a central voice in policy developments in this area.
In his address Mr Halferty told the audience how lucky they were to be part of an integrated school. He talked very fondly of his own time as a student at Oakgrove Integrated College in Derry/Londonderry. He made it very clear that it is thanks to the integrated ethos that he has become the person he is today; someone who cares about real issues and someone who doesn’t just sit back and do nothing when faced with a negative situation. Integration teaches individuals to act and to bring about positive change, ‘Integrated schools produce good citizens’. He went on to say how integration encourages conversations within school, the home and beyond about the differences in our society which, in turn, promote tolerance and respect. Integrated education helps you to see the world and other cultures as things of great interest which are to be embraced and celebrated. He added, ‘it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what your ability is, you are welcome at an integrated school. Everyone is of great value and you are cared for and there is always a place for you. Your teachers, as in other integrated schools, always encourage and support you to be the best version of yourself
whatever that may be.’