Pictures: All smiles at drive-by graduation for inspirational students in Cork city school 

Pictures: All smiles at drive-by graduation for inspirational students in Cork city school 
Dylan O'Sullivan with his SNAs from over the years. From left, Catherine Higgins, Helen Brooks and Caroline Lelu.

A school determined to see its students with special needs graduate hosted a drive-by ceremony after what has been an emotional few months.

The event with a difference saw pupils of Scoil Eanna in Montenotte — a school supporting children with intellectual disabilities — presented with certificates by their principal in a drive-through-style graduation.

Pupil Leah Flynn who graduated at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Pupil Leah Flynn who graduated at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Principal Elaine Angland paid tribute to her students with an outdoor PA system that allowed staff to join in festivities with balloons and decorations bedecking a bus stop at Beechhill Garden Centre in Montenotte.

For many, it was a welcome break from months of heartache that saw many forced to cocoon without the valuable supports normally available to children with special needs.

Dylan O’Sullivan, 12, was among those honoured at the event.

The Carrigtwohill boy suffers from tetralogy of Fallot — made up of four congenital heart abnormalities including a ventricular septal defect, pulmonary valve stenosis, a misplaced aorta, and thickened right ventricular wall. Dylan is also non-verbal and has a tracheostomy, which means he requires around-the-clock care.

It was a proud moment for his mum Marie, who said she was once unsure if she would ever get to see him graduate.

“When Dylan was a baby he had open-heart surgery,” she explained.

“That’s what caused the problems, as it damaged his airway. Dylan ended up with a tracheostomy as a result. He’s since had six reconstructions on his airway and will need another one next year. We were told that he would only have it in for a year or two, but now they don’t know if it will ever be taken out. It’s all about adjusting to the new normal.

“Scoil Eanna have been there since the start. They saw past the tracheostomy and the care he needs. Instead, they saw the boy inside. They saw the outgoing personality that has him always being the one who insists on answering the phone, even though he’s non-verbal. They saw his sense of humour.”

Dylan O'Sullivan with his principal at Scoil Eanna, Elaine Angland.
Dylan O'Sullivan with his principal at Scoil Eanna, Elaine Angland.

Marie explained that Dylan’s first time outside since the lockdown was on a trip to Fota Wildlife Park.

“It was a worry,” she said. “Nobody knew how you got this virus or if anybody was safe from it. It was pure fear but we had to adjust to that fear. My husband was off work for 10 weeks and he was the only one doing the shopping for so long. It was only in the last two weeks that I went out to do the full shop because I had to get back out there. I was a wreck the first week, but I knew I had to stop being scared.”

Marie praised the school for its dedication to students. “Dylan loved Scoil Eanna,” she said.

“Every time he saw his nurse there, his face would light up. His SNAs and teachers have been brilliant too, and it’s great to be able to see everyone again today.”

School principal Elaine Angland and the teachers saying goodbye to the pupils at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
School principal Elaine Angland and the teachers saying goodbye to the pupils at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Principal Elaine Angland fought back tears as she paid tribute to her students and their families.

“I feel blessed to even have met these children,” she told The Echo. “To see them come from where they have to where they are is brilliant.

“The families in this year’s group are very special. I’m not just losing children, but amazing parents, too.”

Eimear Marron, whose daughter Siún also graduated, praised school staff for lifting the children’s spirits. 

“We never lost the support,” she said. “We even had a class assembly every Friday on Zoom so the children were still able to see each other.”

Devine Dakare with his mum bola and teacher Kylie Stone at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan Katie Sheehan with her mum Ann and teacher Róisín Smiddy at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan SNA’s Paula McGrath, Ruth fitzgibbon, Margaret Allen, Catherine Higgins and Caroline Lelu. Picture Dan Linehan SNA Elizabeth Horgan has a smile for the camera. Picture Dan Linehan Young Annmarie who graduated at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Also included are her parents, Kevin and Ann, sisters Fiona and Julie and teacher Róisín Smiddy. Picture Dan Linehan

Devine Dakare with his mum bola and teacher Kylie Stone at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Devine Dakare with his mum bola and teacher Kylie Stone at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Katie Sheehan with her mum Ann and teacher Róisín Smiddy at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan SNA’s Paula McGrath, Ruth fitzgibbon, Margaret Allen, Catherine Higgins and Caroline Lelu. Picture Dan Linehan SNA Elizabeth Horgan has a smile for the camera. Picture Dan Linehan Young Annmarie who graduated at the drive-by graduation cermony for the pupils of Scoil Éanna, Montenotte, Cork. Also included are her parents, Kevin and Ann, sisters Fiona and Julie and teacher Róisín Smiddy. Picture Dan Linehan Pupil Kian Lane with his mum Keira and teacher Kylie Stone. Picture Dan Linehan

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