There was a standing ovation at the Derry Journal People of the Year Awards held in the Everglades Hotel last Friday night for a local woman who has spent almost four decades working in St. Mary’s College, Derry.
Described as a “super lady” by her colleagues, tributes were paid to Anne Kelly who claimed the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mrs. Kelly, who has just recently retired from the school, was praised for her ability to “bring out the very best in everyone.”
But despite her recent decision to retire, the assembled audience was told that Anne is not yet ready to hang up her heels.
Principal of St Mary’s College, Marie Lindsay, who praised Anne’s work over the past 36 years and presented her with her award, said she is certainly not ready to stop working.
“She sees the potential for developing home school links by helping to signpost families to all services available through their community,” she said.
“Education is in her DNA and her blood is definitely Royal Blue.
“But what sets her apart was her innovative approach to improving opportunities for young people, particularly those deemed as underprivileged.
“In every barrier she found an opportunity and literally thousands of young women in this city have benefitted from her dedication, hard work and positivity.”
She revealed how in 1990 Mrs. Kelly was tasked with looking after the move to ‘the big school.’
“But it was her direct contact with the pupils that impacted most,” she said. “Her sincerity, warmth and her ability to inspire those young girls allowed them to think more positively about themselves and their future.
When she started teaching ‘the troubles’ were at their height and many girls left school with few qualifications and went straight to work in the shirt factories. Third Level Education was often regarded as a ‘step too far.’
“This lady decided to reverse that culture by developing the highly innovative “HELP Programme” to raise girls’ aspirations.
“She identified pupils as young as 14 and provided a series of interventions such as extra tuition, Saturday School, revision sessions and homework clubs.
“In 2004 she was awarded the ‘Scoil Treasa Naofa Award’ for her Services to Education at a high profile event in Belfast City Hall. The inscription on her award read: “To Educate is to Awake.”
Without doubt this person’s commitment to education has awakened in thousands of pupils a belief that they can be whatever they want to be in life.
“There is no better legacy.”