THE paint was barely dry on four of the classrooms at the new St Kevin’s College, Lisnaskea, but principal, Gary Kelly, told the audience at its first ever prize night that a school “is much more than just a building or collection of resources”.

“A school is part of the community with everyone coming together in a collegiate approach for the good of our young people, the wellbeing of our society and to develop life chances for our county,” he said.

An amalgamation of the former St. Comhghall’s College, Lisnaskea and St. Eugene’s, Rosslea, the logos and graphics for the new St. Kevin’s College were still being put in place when the inaugural prize giving ceremony took place last week.

In a night of many firsts for St. Kevin’s, paying tribute to the “forward thinking, motivational and dynamic” members of the school’s Board of Governors, Mr. Kelly said they had provided a “solid foundation” to ensure the school would go “from strength to strength for generations to come”.

“The progress we have made in a few short weeks is hugely impressive and is due to their [the Board of Governors’] long hours and hard work over the past year,” said the principal. 

“I know the new St Kevin’s is going to be even greater than the sum of its two impressive parts. I would like to acknowledge the wonderful support, encouragement and best wishes from both communities, parents, teachers and staff of St. Eugene’s and St. Comhghall ’s.

“We now have over 600 pupils in the school, over 150 at Post 16 level and 90 in First year. This is at a time when other schools in the country are facing severe challenges.

“We have joined two highly successful schools together who have topped the NI League Tables for Exams for the last five or more years.

“Last year St. Comhghall’s was top of the GCSE Exam League Tables out of over 200 secondary schools in Northern Ireland and St. Eugene’s was second.”

Reflecting on this year’s results, Mr. Kelly said 90 per cent of the school’s Year 12 pupils achieved five or more GCSE’s grades A* - C including English and Maths. The NI Average for this result is 46 per cent.

At A Level both schools had a 100 per cent pass rate with 99 per cent of Year 14 pupils moving off to university.

Guest speaker during the ceremony was National GAA President Aogan O’Fearghail.

Describing him as a “great friend to the school”, Mr. Kelly said Aogan “knows what it is like to be both sides of the desk, as a successful student, teacher and school president”. 

Mr. Kelly turned his attention to the new school crest.

“The Cross is central in our crest, in Kevin’s teaching and it will be central in our school, lives, homes and values as a reminder of the love of Jesus for us all,” he said, “The salmon reminds us that Kevin fed his monks (pupils) with salmon, a symbol of wisdom, brought to him by an otter. The three rings are the triad the link between home, school and church. The tree is the tree of knowledge and again reminds us of St. Kevin were it is reported in one of his miracles a young man with severe disease received a vision that he would be cured by eating an apple.”

And focusing on the word ‘Kevins’, Mr. Kelly said it stood for many of the traits and life skills required to make a good person in society: kindness, effort, values, integrity, natural and scholarly.

In his speech to the audience Mr. O’Fearghail told students: “Life is meant to be lived”.

“And having fun is part of that ,” he added, “School plays a pivotal role in this. 

“Pursuit of happiness is the most basic need of all humans – school fits into this – knowledge and education are the greatest builders of this.

“A sense of belonging is very important,” he said, “This is a great need and we all feel that in school. Values of belonging and being together are very important. As the poet W. B. Yeats said ‘ fire the imagination – that little spark in your head’.”

Wishing Year 14 student Orlaith Leonard the best of luck ahead of playing for Fermanagh in the All-Ireland Final, he said her successes were proof that “great things can happen in small places”.