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Past pupils in Ennis go back to school for virtual open night

A CHAMPION swimmer aiming for Olympic glory and an RTÉ presenter are just some of those who have gone back to school to take part in a virtual open night next week.
As a result of Covid-19 the usual open night for Ennis Community College / Gaelcholáiste an Chláir is unable to go ahead. However that has not stopped plans to showcase the schools to prospective students with a virtual event going live at 12 noon on Monday.
Principal Brian O’Donoghue revealed moving to an online platform has had advantages, giving the schools an opportunity to highlight the paths some past pupils have taken. Former students have created videos for the virtual event telling their own school experiences. Among those are Ruairí Mac Giolla Bhuidhe, professional swimmer aiming towards the Tokyo Olympics 2021, Zainab Boladale presenter on RTÉ Nationwide, Roisin O Fhallúin who achieved maximum points in the Leaving Cert, Donnie O’Keeffe local business man and software engineer Rezvee Sikder.
“We would have been delighted to have been able to welcome potential students and their families to the school as we do every year but obviously this year there are bigger considerations so it’s moved online to enniscommunitycollege.com and gaelcholaisteanchlair.com with specific information that’s relevant to sixth class students, and all in one place so it’s easy to navigate.
“We connected with past students to give a sense of how our students progress and how they fare once they graduate. And we’ve had a lot of involvement from our current students in this, giving their take and their experience of the school. We’re trying to give a flavour of what life is like here, what’s on offer and the success we have achieved with students which is terrific.
“We have involvement from past pupils in many different areas, business, sport, media. It’s a broad mix of success within our community and it’s lovely to see the connections extend from Harmony Row across many years.”
He said that this would not have been possible to achieve during a normal open event. “Usually you might get the opportunity to invite one past pupil back to speak, but with this it gives a great sense of the opportunities our school can present. You will be hearing from different people who were in school at different times and who have progressed on different paths. This is a great opportunity.”
The open event isn’t the only technological advancement for the schools, with plans for the launch of a brand new integrated website. “We’ve got three elements here, Ennis Community College, Gaelcholáiste an Chláir, but also we’ve got Ennis College of Further Education, which, we’ve now relocated to state-of- the art facilities on the Clonroad, but it’s still a part of our school.
“Our approach is to integrate all three websites, so that the users experience across all of them is the same. So when a visitor visits one part and goes to a different part it feels the same. There’s been months and months of work here between myself, Yvonne Walsh deputy principal and particularly Ramona McCarthy, our IT coordinator at the school. We spent a lot of time to get that right. A user friendly accessible site that makes sense, right across, no matter where you are.”
The individual website addresses will remain the same for the schools, but there will also be an overall harmonyrowcampus.com. Mr O’Donoghue describes this as a “go-to” site for post-primary information and further education through PLC courses.
This innovation is part of a “bigger picture” of modernisation which includes the development of a 4,200 square metre extension.
“The online presence and the physical presence here in Harmony Row has dramatically increased. We’re working hard to progress, advance and to provide every opportunity we possibly can to our students.”

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