Following a successful Erasmus funding application Beech Hill College was awarded €65,000 to organise 24 months of student exchange programmes with a prestigious secondary in Lithuania, Vilniaus Gabijos Gimnazija.
On Monday the 25th of November 3 teachers and 11 students from the Lithuanian school were welcomed to Beech Hill College. The official launch of the exchange programme was attended by the Lithuanian Ambassador to Ireland Egidijau Meilūnai who is delighted that the link has been established.
In her speech welcoming the school guests Deputy Principal Ms Siobhán Sheerin said that the original idea for the exchange stemmed from the concern that the Lithuanian students who attend Beech Hill College felt that they ‘didn’t belong’, some felt their language and heritage was being lost. Last year Principal of Beech Hill College Mr Patrick Mc Ardle contacted the Post Primary Languages Initiative who provided Beech Hill College with a Lithuanian Teacher Kristina who is presently teaching Junior Cycle Lithuanian to 1st and 2nd year students and also Lithuanian as a Leaving Certificate subject to 5th and 6th year students. All students are now getting the chance to learn their native language and about their culture and traditions from a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher.
Ms Sheerin remarked that in many ways Lithuanian history is like the history of the Irish people. For a myriad of reasons over the years Irish people were forced to emigrate. In some countries they were welcomed in others they were not. “We strive here in Beech Hill College to welcome all pupils regardless of their background or faith. We want to build a school where all talents are recognised, where all students are encouraged to be the best they can be”
Throughout the week the guests enjoyed a wide range of activities including working with the Beech Hill College students to build robots in the innovation room, baking scones together in the Home Economics rooms, Gaelic studies class, Coding, Science and Metalwork. They enjoyed playing handball and Gaelic football at lunchtime. The students and teachers were also taken on a trip to Combi Lift where a Lithuanian National employee Mindy was their guide and enjoyed a walking tour of Monaghan. The guests stayed in The Westenra Hotel and were extremely complimentary of the welcome they received in ‘beautiful Monaghan Town’
To conclude the trip The Garage Theatre screened a Lithuanian Language film ‘100 years together’ which was well attended by the local community. In April teachers and students from Beech Hill College will visit Vilniaus. They are really looking forward to the trip which will include visits to museums, The National Observatory and a space station.