Revamped scholarship scheme to benefit 16 Erris students

Pictured at the launch of the 2013/2014 Third-Level Scholarship programme last week were, from left: Fiona Togher, Shell E&P Ireland Limited; Vinny McDonnell, past scholarship winner; Seán Staunton, chairman, Independent Scholarship Board; and James Coyle, past scholarship winner.

Pictured at the launch of the 2013/2014 Third-Level Scholarship programme last week were, from left: Fiona Togher, Shell E&P Ireland Limited; Vinny McDonnell, past scholarship winner; Seán Staunton, chairman, Independent Scholarship Board; and James Coyle, past scholarship winner.

Sixteen students from Erris will be awarded scholarships this year under the revamped Corrib Natural Gas Third-Level Scholarship scheme, which has been extended for another two years.

Details of the programme were announced last week by the chairman of the independent board, Seán Staunton, at a launch event in Belmullet. The new programme will see the number of scholarships increase from 10 to 16, while the grant on offer reduces from €4,000 to €2,000 per student per year of study.

A further innovation this year relates to the themed essay competition, which will be a supervised event and will take place in the Gateway Leisureplex on Saturday, April 6.

“At the end of each cycle we sit down and re-evaluate the programme,” said Mr Staunton. “Given the difficult economic situation that exists for students and their families, we felt it was an appropriate time to increase the number of scholarships. The amount of grant has been reduced but a greater number of students will be assisted.”

This is the seventh year of the scholarship programme, which is funded by the Corrib Gas Partners. To date 61 scholarships have been awarded to students attending the four second level colleges in the area – Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet; Gaelcholáiste Chomáin, Ros Dumhach; St Brendan’s College, Belmullet, and St Patrick’s College, Lacken Cross.

Attending the launch last week were two former scholarship winners, Vinny McDonnell and James Coyle. Vinny McDonnell is currently working with the scaffolding company Hertel on the Bellanaboy terminal site while James Coyle is doing a masters in environmental engineering in GMIT.

Vinny McDonnell recently returned after a stint in Saudi Arabia and is pleased to have found work in Bellanaboy. “It is great to be able to get a job at home,” he said. “Having the scholarship was great. It made college life so much easier.”

James Coyle said the first month after returning to college was always difficult for students as there were so many commitments to meet. “That first month was when the grant was most appreciated. College life brings its own pressures and the grant certainly eased the money worries.”

The application forms for the 2013/2014 scholarship programme have been distributed to the participating colleges and are also available at the Corrib Gas Office in Belmullet. The phone number is 097 27100.

To date, €571,000 has been invested by the Corrib Gas Partners in the scholarship programme and a further €566,000 has been committed until the end of the current programme.

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