Aoife Buckley, one of the recipients of this year’s Gaisce Gold award: It’s ok to be different.
I went to Coláiste Treasa in Kanturk. It was a great school, the teachers were extremely fair and as students, we were given a lot of opportunities. It is a mixed school and I found it really beneficial. It eliminated a lot of arguments, I think, because there were always other people, and other genders to talk to and bounce off.
I wouldn’t call myself overconfident, but I was confident enough. I was part of a group of around nine, and they were and still are hugely important to me. I have lots of interests, and I think that important when you are in school. A lot of my friends, for example, play music. Music is a huge part of my life and a passion of mine, so that really helped when it came to making friends. I play the piano and the concertina as well, so it keeps me very busy.
My sister received her gold Gaisce Award from Michael D Higgins and she is my friend as well as my sister, so I wanted to follow in her footsteps. I started working towards the Gaisce Awards in third year, and it gave me a great focus. It gives you a great sense of achievement.
The highlight of my experience was getting the opportunity to walk a section of the Camino De Santiago with a group of people of various ages. I did the Camino in the summer of fifth year. On this walk we got the opportunity to swap stories and learn a bit more about each other. People from all over the country went on the trip with us and I met so many people from different backgrounds — it was amazing. I walked 122km, and even though at the start we all thought that we’d never be able to do it, the sense of achievement at the end was like nothing I had ever felt before.
I think that when you are in school it’s best to take all and any opportunities that are given to you. It’s a time in your life when you should grab on with both hands! I learned to play the harp as my personal skill for the award and it has opened so many doors for me within the music industry.
I have received many great opportunities including performing on stage in the National Concert Hall in the final of Siansa Gael Linn, as well as taking part in the I.A.Y.O.(Irish Association of Youth Orchestras annual festival. I also got to go the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. I stayed in Merchiston Castle Boarding School in Edinburgh for five nights while taking daily harp classes.
As well as that, children see supposed ‘role models’ online, but they don’t realise that they are not looking at the real person. They don’t necessarily know that an image has been photoshopped or filtered to show someone in their best light. I think it is so important for people to know that what they are seeing online is not rooted in reality.
I didn’t experience bullying, thank God, but it is extremely prevalent. I would say to anyone who is experiencing it now, or feeling lonely, to reach out to their real friends, because they are the people who know you and love you. If you feel a little different, find other people who are feeling different and make friends with them. You make the best friends with people who have the same interests as you. Its important to know that there is no need to be alone, there is always someone else out there who is just like you and wants to be your friend.
One thing that I really loved doing while I was in school, preparing for the Gaisce award was helping out at my local bingo club. I loved hanging out with the older members of my community and listening to their stories. I realised that for some of the people I was chatting to, it might have been the only conversation they would have had all day. It made me realise how much we need to remember everyone in our community.
I’m 19 now and studying to be a primary school teacher. I think that my own school experience taught me that it is important to focus on a wide range of interests at school. The academics are definitely important, but it is also really important to widen your sphere of interests and try new things. It’s a time in your life that you can expand your horizons, and awards like Gaisce encourage children to challenge themselves beyond what they thought they were capable. That is a wonderful thing for any young person to experience, I think.
Aoife Buckley received a Gaisce Gold award last Wednesday 4th December by President of Ireland, from Michael D Higgins. More than 30,000 hours of commitment and dedication by 77 inspirational young people were recognised at a special ceremony held by Gaisce – The President’s Award in Dublin Castle.
The President’s Award celebrates 35 years in existence next year and is looking for people to share their memories/stories of their own Gaisce journey. If you would like to share your Gaisce story, please visit Gaisce.ie and click on the story portal.
Published at Sun, 08 Dec 2019 06:37:00 +0000