St Mary’s students Ballina scoop two first prizes in NNI Press Pass Awards

St Mary’s Secondary School, Ballina has scooped a double win in the first National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI ) Press Pass awards at a gala ceremony officiated at by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Transition year students Helen McLoughlin and Sinead Kenny were both named as first prize winners in their categories, news and features respectively.

Helen McLoughlin was praised for raising “a local issue with national importance” when she wrote a hard news piece about a rare post-partum cardiac condition; Sinead Kenny was lauded for “sensitive interview skills and a wonderfully crafted profile piece” for her feature interview with the late 99-year-old Ballina native Tom Kettrick.

At the ceremony in Dublin’s Convention Centre, An Taoiseach said the initiative would promote literacy, as well as helping students to develop analytical skills and stimulate social awareness.

Principal Mrs Patsy Sweeney said: “St Mary’s Secondary School is delighted to add two more national titles to its ever increasing list of plaudits. Congratulations to Helen and Sinead, and their families, on that fantastic achievement. Both girls represented the school in an exemplary fashion and further prove the significant, positive, impact of the transition year programme here at St Mary’s.” Congratulating their teacher Anna-Marie Flynn on challenging and inspiring the girls to reach such journalistic heights she noted Ms Flynn’s own background in media as being the real magic formula.

English teacher Anna-Marie Flynn said the programme was “extremely worthwhile”. “This project is something completely new and serves as a refreshing way to promote and improve literacy at a really practical, challenging, and engaging level for young people.

“The project enabled the students to build on the experience they have gained through our own in-house publication, TY Times, which we introduced last year as part of a media studies module.”

Praising the winning students, she added: “I am very proud of the entire participating class of 4A4 for taking to this project so enthusiastically, but the achievement of both Helen and Sinead is truly outstanding. Both students invested time, effort, and skill in researching their articles, securing interviews, and crafting them with care and sensitivity. I think the programme was extremely worthwhile for all the students, but in the cases of Helen and Sinead, created an opportunity they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

NNI chairman Matt Dempsey said that studies from around the world had shown that students who read newspapers did better at school.

The project is set to expand and NNI is collaborating with Colaiste Chiarian, in Croom, Co Limerick, on the development of a journalism/media studies module for post-primary students. It will be trialled from September.


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