Hi, I’m Tara Leahy, a fourth year (now unfortunately going into fifth year) student and a member of the Cuala 05 girls’ team. As a part of my TY experience, I was lucky enough to be one of the 30 fourth year students in Cuala to take part in the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Program.

Each Friday night we were given fun tasks and challenges, like solving a murder mystery or building a statue, organised by our amazing and dedicated mentors, to complete in our groups. Of course, with a room full of competitive Gaa players, these fun and enjoyable tasks often turned into an intense competition, but always ended with everybody smiling. Afterwards, our mentors would take us through the different skills we used to complete these tasks and what we learned. To finish up the sessions, a guest speaker would come in each week and usually end up inspiring us and teaching us a valuable lesson! At the very end of module one, we had to write about an issue in our community that we wanted to try fix and using the skills we had developed in past weeks, read out our speeches to everybody else.

Module two was quite similar to module one, except at the end of module two we had to make a group project about an issue facing our community and the world and present our findings to an audience at Dun Laoghaire Town Hall. Both module one and two taught me so much. Although I was nervous before both presentations, I felt very proud and confident afterwards, and my teamwork, communication and many other skills improved immensely.

The third and final module was by far my favourite. Instead of just reading and writing about an issue I was able to take action and help with a cause I cared a lot about. Myself and three other girls, Shannon, Albha and Síne, with the help of our mentor Declan Wylde, raised money for a protection home for teenage girls in Nsobe in Zambia. It was a lot of hard work, a lot more than I had anticipated at the beginning, as the four of us sat chatting on a zoom call, to girls in Zambia with the same interests and hobbies as us but living in a much more challenging world.

All together we raised over €2000, by organising tuck shops in our schools, heading down to Sandycove at 6 in the morning for a week to get donations from the brave, and now also very generous sea-swimmers, setting up a go-fund me page and raffling off two jerseys, kindly signed by members of the ladies Dublin team. I enjoyed every minute of module three and was so amazed by all the generosity and the help I received from so many people in the club. Aisling Fay and the Cuala shop for donating a jersey for the raffle and the Cuala/Dublin players for getting their Dublin team mates to sign the jersey, Rob Hartnett for sharing the go-fund me link on the Cuala socials, Ken Fitz for sharing the link to all the academy parents and of course all the amazing Cuala members who donated and encouraged me along the way!

I am so glad I did the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership course. I have gained many new and important skills and improved on old ones. I got to meet so many lovely people, made new friends and have become more confident in myself. Although I was slightly reluctant at first, spending an hour of my Friday nights in the (often freezing) Cuala hall for the next few months, it was a completely worthwhile, enjoyable and educational experience, and I would recommend it to every incoming fourth year student!