Hi Parents and Guardians,
I am writing this about my experiences with our start up group for our wonderful school, Citywest Educate Together National School, in the hopes that it ignites your interest in our campaign to get a secondary school in our area.
I have been a volunteer for Educate Together for the last 9 years. In 2007 we started out as 3 parents with a dream, who felt passionate about our shared goal- to achieve an Educate Together Primary School in Dublin 24. Our group grew in the next few years, but not without the hard work that comes with publicity, political lobbying, fundraising, writing letters, public meetings, and much more.
We campaigned for nearly 5 years, and look where we are now! In 2012 our school opened to much anticipation and excitement. Nearly 4 years on and our school has grown exponentially to 210 students. So, what does this mean for our secondary campaign? Instead of 3 parents starting uphill, we've got a parent/ guardian body of potentially 420 helpers!
We've GOT THIS!
A natural next step for all our children's education. All we need is YOU!
A lot of traditional schools just seem to “pop up” as and when needed in an area. Sometimes too late for too many, as our own community is experiencing, sometimes, with luck, just on time for some. This is not the case for an Educate Together school, and indeed, never has been. They don't pop up out of nowhere. They are, for all intents and purposes, won by a start-up group of parents and guardians who often campaign and lobby for years for their ideal school for their children. And as we have all seen, a school who teaches equality, justice, child-centredness, democracy, and specifically- view students as individuals, with individual needs and hopes. A prime example of this is our own original start up group for our primary school. We lobbied and campaigned sometimes tirelessly when the political climate dictated so, for nearly 5 years. This, apparently is short compared to some other start up groups’ campaigns. But many of the parents who worked on our campaign from the beginning were unable to use the school which opened in 2012, due to the fact that it came too late for their children’s ages. Despite this cruel fact and devastating blow, they stayed on the campaign and worked on it until the end, volunteering their time and energy that still inspires me to this day. I have no doubt that we have our school because of these amazing people.
A lot of people take for granted that, because they are very busy, then someone else will do it, someone else will campaign for a local secondary school, someone less busy. Or maybe it will just happen anyway? But I am here to tell you from my experience that great schools don’t come for free, not without people power, power in numbers, without political momentum and pressure, without community involvement and much publicity, without YOU! We need you!
My experience in Educate Together volunteering is that I didn’t encompass one single parent or guardian who weren’t incredibly busy in their lives, with work, voluntary work, caregivers, studying, raising their children, double jobbing, or all of it!
When I joined Educate Together 9 years ago I thought at the time that I’d no skills to offer the campaign other than ambition and hope. I had no computer skills, I was shy and lacking in confidence, I thought I’d no experience to offer the campaign. However I soon learned that not only was my contributions needed, but it was also valued and appreciated. See that’s what you’ll find in an Educate Together school campaign. Everyone’s contribution is appreciated, big or small, there is an understanding that each person is doing what they can do. And if you’re not there, the same old people are having to do more, even though most people have similar busy schedules, deadlines, pressures and stresses of everyday life. The old dictate remains very true- many hands make light work.
I can’t overstate how every contribution made a difference, big or little, to the overall success of our primary school start up campaign. From marketing, fundraising, photocopying, letter writing, drawing, delivering, corporate sponsorships, politicking, publicity, cheering; it all made a difference. And the beauty of it is that it’s a grassroots movement made by ordinary people for their children’s education. In equal measure, that’s also its greatest challenge. We need our people, WE NEED YOU. Forget expensive toys and gadgets, what better gift to give to your children than your contribution to the betterment of their education?
Another great challenge we face with our Secondary School campaign is that at the moment, just a couple of members are incurring all the costs of stationery, paper, website fees, and other communication costs. We will change this with fundraising supports. You know the old adage- a problem shared is a problem halved.
You’ll find a co-op, not a clique, you’ll find a group of equal peers, not seniority, you’ll find always an appreciative welcome, never judgmentalness, you’ll find open minds to all kinds of ideas. You might even find, as I did, what a difference you can make. WE NEED YOU.
When I joined Educate Together many moons ago, I dared to hope and dream for an Educate Together School for both of my children. But I never could’ve imagined the wonderful experiences I had along the journey, the confidence I gained, and the eventual school we got, which exceeded even my best dreams. The friendships I made for life are now invaluable to me. One way or another, no matter how much distance comes between our paths, I know I made friendships for life. I just know. And hey, we weren’t averse to the odd night off and the odd night out! We’re only human...
Let’s dare to dream for an Educate Together Secondary School for our children too, and let's put those dreams into actions together. WE NEED YOU.
You may be sensing a theme here… And at the risk of repeating myself, (is it too late to apologise?!) WE really NEED YOU!
All of our primary school volunteer initiatives still need more of you too.
I will sign off with a quote that sums up Educate Together start up campaigns-
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
Thanks for reading this,
Leona Mc Mahon, parent.
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