Sixth year students across Laois and Ireland celebrated their graduations this week, after what must be one of the most difficult senior cycles ever experienced in modern Irish education thanks to the pandemic.
Clonaslee College students are among them and John Lee acting school principal has described the "different world" they had to face.
"This year's Leaving Cert class have faced many hurdles during their senior cycle. In fifth year, they were sent home with very little notice and got their first experience of on-line learning. They took it in their stride thinking that all would be back to normal when they went back to school as sixth years. This was not to be the case, unfortunately. They returned to a different world - a world of staying within your class group, being given an assigned seat, cold classrooms due to windows and doors being left open, cleaning in, wearing masks, no sport (either formal or at break or lunch) - the fun element of school was missing.
"As Christmas approached, they, and the rest of the school community, got involved in decorating the school campus. A competition developed between the different year groups to see who would get the prize for best display. It was a welcome distraction.
"Then came the news of another lockdown and the rumours of the Leaving Cert being cancelled. More stress and anxiety followed. Rumour upon rumour and the threat of Covid 19 was ever present. But they dealt with it and showed their resilience and mental strength. ," Mr Lee said.
He said that being a school in a rural area, next to the Slieve Bloom mountains, helped the students.
"School was a relatively safe place for them. The school rural setting was a major factor as we have a single storey structure with each classroom opening to the outside and a courtyard open to the elements on the inside. We had scares along the way, but we survived and that is a testament to the character of this class. They followed all Covid guidelines and realised that, as have being told so often, we are all in this together.
"I believe the obstacles that they have had to overcome to get to where they are today will stand to them. They have demonstrated huge resilience and mental fortitude throughout this pandemic. They have coped admirably with everything that has being thrown at them and they have been denied the usual gatherings and social life that the young adults of previous years have had that can help alleviate the stress and anxiety of the exam year.
"I, and all the staff of Clonaslee College, are immensely proud of them and we wish them well in their exams and in whatever path they follow in life," Mr Lee said.
See our photo gallery as the Clonaslee college 6th years celebrate the end of their secondary school education.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.