Presentation Secondary School, Wexford became the newest Champion of School of Sanctuary and the sixth in Co. Wexford on Monday 13th November, following a monitoring day which made a deep impact on the team and visitors.
The monitoring day coincided with an intercultural celebration, graced by parents, students and teachers from neighbouring schools and the Mayor of Wexford, John Hegarty. As well as Sanctuary Ambassadors and Tiffy Allen (Places of Sanctuary Ireland National Coordinator), the monitoring team included representatives of Wexford Local Development, South East Technological University and Champion SoS teachers.
The hall was resplendent with costumes and dishes from dozens of countries and it was wonderful to see parents from various nationalities getting involved alongside their children. Highlights included a haunting beautiful rendering of a 19th century Ukrainian prayer for peace.
A stand out initiative in the school’s Sanctuary journey was one called ‘Students Across the Globe‘. This came from students themselves, in response to the growing numbers of international students, some of whom knew little English and had come as refugees. The group, representing all school years and many nationalities, took responsibility for speaking about what Schools of Sanctuary meant to them, and ways they have been aiming to express inclusion and welcome in every stage of school life.
The students were also buzzing with the success of fellow student, Heba Haj Habo, who graduated from the school before the summer. Heba is a hugely talented artist, now studying in SETU Waterford. A powerful exhibition of her artwork was recently launched in Wexford Arts Centre. Called ‘My Memories’, the exhibition depict her family’s 5 year journey seeking sanctuary from war-torn Syria and family arriving in Wexford. Find out more about Heba and her art here
“I was completely blown away by the level of work that has been undertaken in Presentation Secondary School to provide a safe and nurturing environment to all students – particularly refugees and those seeking asylum. I was so impressed by the confidence and leadership skills of the students involved. Throughout the whole schedule of events it was very noticeable that there is a great sense of community in this school and it didn’t seem in any way staged or forced for the purposes of the monitoring event. I love that the celebration of tradition and culture was embedded within their curriculum and not just something that is celebrated one day within the academic year. The vice principal took the time to share a document that outlined how to phonetically pronounce first and last names to create a culture of inclusion. Something that may seem so minor to us can have such a big impact on a students’ wellbeing and feeling of belonging. This was my first time attending a school that was aspiring to become a Champion School of Sanctuary. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and look forward to providing feedback to SETU to find ways that we can improve our own practice” (SETU Schools Inclusion Coordinator)