Welcome to our new “MSL & Me” series, where we will be showcasing some of the amazing students who have participated in our Further Education and Training courses or have been students in our secondary schools.

To kick things off as part of ETB Week, we would like to shine a spotlight on one of our exceptional alumni, Emma Kearns, who will be honoured at the ETB Week Main Event in Thomond Park later today. Emma, through Youthreach Ballinrobe, exemplifies the transformative power of education and determination.

Struggling with feeling out of place in traditional educational settings, Emma’s path led her to Youthreach Ballinrobe. Like many, she had reservations and fears about her educational journey.

“I was very nervous when I started in Youthreach Ballinrobe because I had heard negative stories as people have a very bad idea of Youthreach,”

Emma recalls.

“I was also scared to try out this new way of learning as I did not have a great experience in school.”

Despite her apprehensions, Emma took the leap, recognising that Youthreach offered her a chance to thrive in an environment tailored to her needs. With smaller class sizes and personalised attention, she found the support she needed to develop both personally and academically.

“It was a lot easier,”

Emma reflects,

“as it was spread out within two years, and that was really nice.” “I think from secondary school you would not be as close to the teachers. Whereas here you are on a first -name basis with them, can have a chat with them during class. This helped me during my exams because I was able to focus, and I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with my teachers about areas I needed help with.”

Emma’s journey was not just about academic success. It was about discovering her passions and talents. From winning an All-Ireland championship as captain of the ladies’ soccer team to excelling in her studies, Emma’s confidence soared with each achievement.

One pivotal moment for Emma was winning the Feargal Quinn Award, an accolade that recognises outstanding dedication and achievement.

“I still can’t believe that I got that achievement,”

Emma admits, reflecting on her surprise and gratitude for the recognition.

“I remember getting my results; I was in the staff room with Gillian, one of my teachers, and she opened up my results on her computer and I saw the 100%, and I nearly fell to the floor, I was very, very shocked.”

Emma’s educational journey has not ended with Youthreach Ballinrobe It was just the beginning. Equipped with newfound skills, confidence, and a supportive community, Emma pursued further education, now studying business studies at Galway Technical Institute. Her aspirations extend beyond the classroom; she dreams of owning her own hotel or cafe, inspired by her experiences in hospitality and catering classes at Youthreach Ballinrobe.

Reflecting on her experience, Emma offers advice to those considering Youthreach:

“Just go for it. You need to try something new. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I think if I did not come here, I would have a full-time job now,” she continues. “I would have dropped out of secondary school and not gone back into education at all. My mindset was that I had to drop out at 16 and never come back to education because I hated my initial journey so much until I came here. I made great friends, and I know that I will have them for a lifetime because we had similar experiences, and we both can bond over that.”

Frank Brady, Youthreach Coordinator, speaks highly of Emma’s character and achievements:

“Emma should be recognised because she managed to get 100% in the LCA… She’s just an amazing young person… She is on her path now, and I can see her owning restaurants or succeeding in anything she chooses to pursue.”

Emma’s story is a testament to the power of education, resilience, and community support. As we celebrate ETB Week, let’s remember Emma Kearns and countless other students whose lives have been transformed by programmes like Youthreach. Their success is our inspiration and our pride.

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