A proud Donegal woman in the US has announced a new scholarship to support students at her former school on Arranmore Island.
Caroleann S. Gallagher has revealed that her Chicago-based legal firm, Coogan Gallagher, is to award an annual scholarship of €3,000 to one Leaving Cert pupil of Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada. The scholarship will go towards the student’s further education journey post-Leaving Cert.
Announcing the scholarship, Ms Gallagher said she wanted to show appreciation for the school that had a major impact on her education and subsequent career.
Ms Gallagher, a personal injury lawyer, was promoted to Partner at her firm in November 2018.
She was one of the first pupils to have the opportunity to attend post-primary school at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada, which officially opened in 1990.
Caroleann is the daughter of Laurence Lenty and Kathleen Nancy Gallagher. She and her three brothers were raised on the island at Aphort. However, when they grew old enough for post-primary school, they had no option but to travel to the mainland. The people of Arranmore had long fought for a secondary school to keep the children on the island.
Caroleann’s brothers attended boarding school at St. Eunan’s Letterkenny. When it came to Caroleann’s turn, she had to make arrangements to move to Killybegs, where she would live with her uncle in order to go to school.
When the summer of 1990 came around, Arranmore got word that the Gairmscoil school would be provided and the children could stay with their families on the island.
“I remember it clearly, it was a very happy day, the whole island was overjoyed and there was this sense of relief and happiness that we’d get to stay home,” Caroleann said.
Caroleann began her post-primary education in October 1990. The school teachers, she said, shaped her life forever. She continues to see wonderful, well-rounded students passing through the school, which she credits to the dedicated teachers who commute by ferry to the island each day.
“It gives kids the best start in their adult lives and it did that for me,” she said.
“Now I want to give back and show appreciation for my school, not just for me but for Arranmore as a whole. I think this school has been a beacon of light in our community over these past 30 years,” she said.
Coogan Gallagher has opened the scholarship for students in the Leaving Cert class of 2023 to apply for €3,000 to support them on their post-Leaving Cert journey, whether they choose to go to college, university, take up an apprenticeship, traineeship or other further education. The initiative is being organised with the support of Principal Mary Doherty.
In a video message to students, Caroleann said the scholarship is not solely academic-based and will be selected via an anonymous process.
“I’m so glad and happy that my firm and I can do something for the Gairmscoil because it’s had an incredible influence on me and my life,” she said.
Caroleann studied Law at the National University of Ireland, and counts herself fortunate to have had her family’s support during this time.
“I was lucky when I went to college that my parents could support me but I realise this may not be the case for everyone. My idea behind the scholarship is that it will be a helping hand for someone’s first steps into their adult life,” she said.
The successful recipient of the inaugural Coogan Gallagher scholarship will be announced at the end of the school year.