Graduates of a younger kind are celebrating a University of Limerick milestone with a difference this week.
A group of sixth class students from a Limerick primary school were the first to be conferred from UL’s new ‘Academy for Children’, which aims to inspire future graduates and deepen the University’s ties in the community.
In all, 39 pupils from Our Lady Queen of Peace National School in Janesboro collected their certificates as the first graduating class of the new UL Academy for Children this Monday.
The Academy encourages and supports local primary school children to reach their full potential and continue their journey through education.
The graduation ceremony was officiated by Professor Nigel Healey, Provost and Deputy President of UL, who spoke about the transformative power of education.
“University education can transform a person’s life chances and enable them, regardless of their background, to achieve their potential,” said Professor Healey.
The UL Access Office created the Academy for Children in late 2020, enhancing the University’s commitment to community engagement, and widening the participation of underrepresented groups at third level. The ethos of the Academy is based on a firm belief in partnership, in community and in keeping children at the heart of the decision-making process.
Our Lady Queen of Peace National School was chosen as the pilot partner and the school worked in collaboration with the UL Access Office, Limerick Sports Partnership and the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, to design specific aspects of the programme.
School principal Eamonn O’Connell spoke about the importance of the “meaningful links that had been created with the University” and how the programmes “lessened the daunting challenge” of the move to secondary school.
The highlight of the Academy was the delivery of a French programme developed by staff in the School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics at UL. The initiative was praised by Dr Loïc Guyon, Consul Honoraire de France, during the ceremony.
He welcomed the support UL has given in terms of language learning at primary level and how this is “beneficial in helping the kids to successfully progress from the primary school environment to the post-primary one.”
The role of the Academy is to open doors and expand horizons, to introduce the University to those who do not know it and to inspire future graduates, to bring the University to the community and the community to the University.
The Academy for Children will expand its membership to other local DEIS primary schools in the coming year. The programme of activities will include exploration days at UL as well as the delivery of bespoke programmes for the fifth and sixth class children in the schools.