St. Joseph’s College celebrated its prize night last week and guests took time to reflect on what makes the school such a special place to be.
Principal Helena Palmer began proceedings by stating: “It would be impossible to capture a whole year of creativity, learning, growth and accomplishments within a couple of hours but I am confident that through the awards, prizes and presentations you will get a glimpse of what makes St. Joseph’s great place to be.”
She noted highlights from last year, including the Under 14 Gaelic football team winning the Ennis Cup in the Ulster Final and the Under 16 team getting narrowly beaten in the Under 16 Ulster Final, the ski Trip to Italy and achieving “fantastic academic results” with 68 per cent of year 12 pupils achieving at least five GCSE passes at A*-C and 100 per cent of A level pupils achieving A*-E grades.
“As a Catholic school closely linked with our parish communities, we are very proud of our contribution to local charities, most notably our involvement in supporting Miss McDaid’s volunteer work in India. Pupils were also involved in hugely successful and beneficial Giving Tree Project in St. Michaels Church at Christmas time alongside our local St. Vincent de Paul society,” said Mrs. Palmer.
She voiced her pride at “the high standard and quality of learning and teaching” within St. Joseph’s, adding: “This can be a challenge at times – both for staff and pupils, but with perseverance, dedication, commitment, respect and trust successful outcomes can and have been achieved.”
She thanked her “wonderful team” for ensuring the school is “a thriving community” and wished a good retirement to four members of staff who retired last year: Mr. Donnelly, Mrs. McCausland, Miss McDaid and Mrs. Maguire 
“We are rightly proud of the high standard and quality of learning and teaching within our school community,” Mrs. Palmer continued.
Speaking to her pupils, Mrs. Palmer said: “You have been selected by your teachers, fellow pupils and examining bodies to receive these awards. Too often we are unwilling to acknowledge that we are good at something or have a particular talent in an area. Never be afraid to shine your light boys – celebrate your success here tonight, acknowledge how good you are, congratulate your friends here present for their achievements and most of all, stand tall and be proud of yourselves.”
She added: “I want you to remember that your views and values will change as you progress in life. While you will continue to grow and change, I hope St. Joseph’s College will remain a constant in your lives. We look forward to witnessing your growth beyond school and supporting you, in your future endeavours.”
She described the 2016-17 academic year as “extraordinary and inspiring … [and] at some times frustrating.”
She thanked the Board of Governors for giving up many hours of their time and substantial expertise for the betterment of St. Joseph’s. 
Mrs. Palmer concluded by quoting Winston Churchill, who said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Guest speaker, Monaghan senior gaelic footballer Conor Mc Manus encouraged the boys to take part in all sports because involvement in a team and the camaraderie it engenders is very special. 
He reflected back on his own playing career and explained how he was very disappointed when he didn’t make the Monaghan minor panel when he was 17 years of age. 
He used this set-back to spur himself on to make even greater efforts. 
He was rewarded a year later when he played on his club (Clontibret) senior team as they won the County title and then later that year he was actually drafted into the Monaghan senior panel. 
He has never looked back. 
Mr. McManus emphasised the importance of reacting positively to adversity and explained they would encounter setbacks but it was how they reacted to these that would dictate how successful they would become.