Presentation Tralee celebrated all things ‘Wellbeing’ this week! The dedicated Wellbeing Week, aimed at providing Presentation students with the knowledge, skills and tools to manage and improve their own mental health and wellbeing, was officially opened by Presentations newly appointed principal Ms. Mairéad Finucane on Monday morning. Ms. Finucane stressed the importance and relevance of the dedicated week to the whole school community in her morning address. "Wellbeing is fundamental to contemporary living. It holds an important place within our school community, health and overall happiness. Having a strong and well-adapted sense of wellbeing can help us overcome the many obstacles which life presents thereby developing our inner resilience".
The week then kicked off with sixth year students engaging in an invigorating workshop facilitated by Holistic Wellbeing and Lifestyle coach Mairéad Moriarty. The 2-hour workshop was entitled ‘Stop Stressing & Start Thriving – allow your inner wisdom to create your best life”. Students were taught how to calm their minds and find focus in order to create the future of their dreams.
The fifth- year students followed suit with a 2-hour workshop in the afternoon on ‘The Art of Relationships: Only the Real me can have Real Relationships’, facilitated by Mairéad Moriarty. Meanwhile elsewhere on the busy campus, the Transition Year students had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Karen Weekes to the school. The psychologist and lecturer at MTU memorized the students with tales of how she became the first Irish woman to row across the Atlantic and the many adventures she encountered as part of the #shecandoit2021 campaign. Her lessons learnt at sea as well as her preparation and coping techniques will stay with her audience long after TY.
The TY Active School Flag Team (ASF) were next up with the third years in what was the first takeover of many PE classes by the student led team this week. The team led by PE teacher Ms. Sheehy and Transition Year Co-ordinator Ms. Cronin have this year started the process towards achieving Active School Status for Presentation Tralee. Presentation Tralee are the first post-primary school in Kerry trying to achieve the Active School Flag. They are in Year 1 of the ASF process. Ms Sheehy added that “The ASPFF process challenges teenagers to find more ways to get their school community more active and to energise the school day for everyone. It provides a channel for student voice and generates meaningful opportunities for student leadership. The team have put on a variety of exciting activities during the week for all PE classes to promote the benefits of physical activity for wellbeing. This included live interactive experiments demonstrating how physical activity can make you learn and keep physically, mentally and emotionally well”. Classes were asked to note how they were feeling from 1 Very Happy to 5 Grumpy on a mood scale at the beginning and end of the ASF activities. In all classes, everyone's mood increased after physical activity. In one group, the Very Happy category increased by 19 students! 5th and 6th Year students had a focus on how regular physical activity and sport aids study and brain power also. Highlighted as well was girls drop out rate from sport in exam years. Well done to all the Active School Flag Team. They are now planning their second Whole School Event and development of the school walkway.
The rest of the week continued with the same high energy, positivity and enthusiasm from staff and students alike. Throughout the week, Ms. O’Donoghue’s transition year students stepped up to peer mentoring the first years in CPR training for the Irish Heart Foundations initiative to educate all secondary school students in this lifesaving technique. Transition years were themselves instructed in school earlier in the year in order to give them the necessary knowledge and competencies to participate in this initiative.
Ms O’Connell, IT Co-ordinator, held workshops with all first-year classes this week to highlight the importance of digital awareness as a crucial element of wellbeing. She added “Technology has a considerable role to play in supporting wellbeing in schools. The wellbeing programme set out in the Junior Cycle Framework (2014) encourages schools to develop citizens of the future-citizens who are aware, connected, responsible, resilient and who understand the importance of being respected and respecting others. Using the ‘Connect with Respect’ programme, developed by An Garda Siochana in partnership with Webwise, the workshops addressed the topics of cyberbullying and online harassment. There was lively debate as students took part in group activities, investigated scenarios, and explored the laws around internet safety.
Astrid Longhurst, Transformational Body Confidence Expert delivered an energetic, engaging and inspirational workshop to 5th years called “Love your body, Love your life”. Combining motivation and upbeat advice, Astrid gave a captivating account of her own struggles with her body image. Ms. Dennehy, Wellbeing Co-ordinator in Presentation said “Astrids message about accepting oneself with kindness and compassion needs to be heard by every young person again and again. Her contagious positive energy was tangible in the PE hall”.
The Youth Suicide Prevention Service (YSPI) delivering a comprehensive Youth Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Programme called the ‘Four Steps to Help Programme’ to sixth years. Ms. Dennehy added that “Presentation is keenly aware that the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that among the six most important ways of reducing suicide rates is through school based interventions, so we were delighted to be in a position to offer this valuable workshop to our 6th years students”.
Third Year Students finished their Wednesday by attending a captivating talk by guest speaker Elma Walsh, the mother of Donal Walsh and a representative of the #LiveLife Foundation. The talk was about Donal’s life and struggles when he was diagnosed with Cancer as a teenager. Ms. Dennehy said that “This talk was indeed extremely moving and inspiring for the third-year students and promoted Donal’s message to live your life to the full and when you are struggling in life to reach out and tell a friend, find someone you can open up to, there is always help”.
Thursday and Friday saw all first years through to Transition Years attend a Schools Cancer Awareness Programme (SCAP) workshop facilitated by Mary Spaight, registered nurse with a master's degree in Nurse Education from the Marie Keating Foundation. Mary added “SCAP is designed to equip students with all the information they might need to understand cancer better and to inform them of the importance of good lifestyle choices in helping to reduce their risk of cancer”. Information was delivered to students in an interactive style workshop, aimed to make cancer less frightening. Students indeed proved enlightened and engaged by this key learning activity.
A series of ‘One Good School’ workshops facilitated by Jigsaw ensured the week continued to be jam packed! Presentation Tralee are part of Jigsaw’s One Good School initiative, a 2-year comprehensive initiative which strives to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people, and those around them by developing a shared response for mental health across the whole school community. Ms. Dennehy, OGS lead teacher added that “the initiative helps us as a school to provide a safe and supportive environment for building life skills, resilience and a strong sense of connectedness in Presentation Tralee”. Caoimhe Keoghan, Jigsaw Tralee further added that “we cannot underestimate the vital role that schools play in supporting youth mental health and the long-term impact that positive school experiences can have on the lives of young people”. As part of the schools commitment to the OGS initative, first to third year students all enjoyed an online workshop ‘Let's Talk, Sure Why not’ whilst 6th year students all participated in a One Good School workshop ‘Managing exam stress’, right in time to minimise any stress in the lead up to the exams. Transition Year Students further reaped the benefit of a 2-hour workshop titled ‘My Mental Health – What Helps’ with Ms. Keoghan from Jigsaw Tralee. Nicole Walker and Maiya Rivas McHugh, specially trained OGS peer mentors from 5th year, delivered extremely impressive peer education workshops called “It’s Time to Start Talking” to all first-year classes throughout the week. The reaction of the first-year students to their older peers clearly demonstrated a marked improvement of the first years intentions to seek help and their mental health knowledge.
The week was not without some extremely worthwhile fundraisers for Jigsaw, Pieta House and The Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation. Students donned their uniforms on Friday for Rainbows Day and brightened up the corridors with their smiles and colourful clothes in order to raise much need funds for these organisations. With the help of Ms. Prendeville and the Student Representative Council (SRC) a very substantial amount of money was raised for these essential organisations and services. Ms. Burns third year CSPE classes furthermore displayed their impressive baking and sales skills by organising and hosting a monster bake sale at breaktime on Friday to add to the fundraising efforts to top off a cracker of a week. And not forgetting the extremely hardworking staff of Presentation Tralee who were treated to a five-star lunch on Friday in the staffroom as each and every one of them made Wellbeing week the success that it was and that is what makes Pres Tralee unique and special.
Ms. Mulcahy, Career and Guidance Counsellor in Presentation added “we all know what we have to do to stay physically healthy, but what about our mental wellbeing? Though we are far more open today in talking about our emotional difficulties, psychological health and wellbeing are things that many of us take for granted or worse yet, assume are beyond our conscious control. Our Wellbeing Week is something we can all work towards. That is the message that rang loud and clear in the Presentation Tralee corridors this week. We are looking forward to Wellbeing week 2024 already!”.
Thanks to the goodwill and generosity of spirit of all the staff and students, guest speakers and facilitators, Presentation Tralee left no doubt that this is a school community who mean business when it comes to promoting, supporting and improving mental health and wellbeing for their students, not just this week but each and every day!