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Past Pupil Testimonials

Past Pupil Testimonial

-  Hannah McHugh

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I embarked upon my learning journey at St Joseph’s Grammar School having previously attended St. Mary’s Primary School, Cabragh. Following in the footsteps of my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, who all attended St Joseph’s, and often told incredible stories about ‘the Convent’, I knew that my decision to join was inevitable. Little did I know that this would be one of the best decisions of my life! From establishing lifelong friendships to gaining an invaluable skill set, I can wholeheartedly say that every day at the convent was a ‘good’ day, and the passionate, inspirational, and caring teachers gave every student both roots to grow and wings to fly.


I have a plethora of fond memories from my time in St. Joseph’s and travelling to five different countries was a particular highlight for me amongst many others. Breath-taking opportunities such as swimming in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, taking a ‘selfie’ at the top of the Eiffel Tower and venturing through the cobbled streets of Krakow on a horse and carriage undoubtedly kindled my love of travel and equipped me with the confidence and skills to do so in later life. However, I have yet to master the skill of staying below the luggage allowance limit when flying - probably because the kind teachers at St. Joseph’s used to transfer my accessories into their suitcases at the 4 am airport stop to ensure that my outfits for the trip ahead were complete, and for this, I am still grateful!


As a passionate musician, one of my favourite parts about of life at St. Joseph’s was getting involved with activities in the outstanding music department. Being a member of the school’s choir, string group and orchestra provided many opportunities, such as performing in shows, competitions, and concerts in prestigious locations, including the Waterfront Hall in Belfast and open-air stages in Liège, Belgium! From this, I learned the importance of teamwork and particularly loved the connections that were made between junior and senior students. Looking back, I realise that my involvement in music at the school gave me the confidence to believe in myself and to realise my ambitions. These attributes helped me to achieve two diploma’s in music and to be selected twice as Ireland’s representative for the International Youth Symphony Orchestra, which took place in California.


I studied Music, Religion and Geography at A-Level and thoroughly enjoyed each subject. I was blessed with phenomenal teachers at this stage, who encouraged me to do my best to get the results that I needed for my university course. Whilst completing my A-Levels, I was fortunate to gain a place on the school’s remarkable Community Link Programme, where I spent one hour weekly with a class in a local primary school, helping children with literacy and numeracy. This heart-warming experience gave me an insight into the daily practice of a teacher and showed me how enormously gratifying it can be, which made a huge influence on the next chapter of my life.


After leaving St. Joseph’s Grammar School, I decided to study a Bachelor of Education, where I specialised in Primary Education with Music at St Mary’s University College, Belfast. I absolutely loved the four-year course, and it was a dream to complete my first placement in the school that I completed Community Link in. This degree also gave me the opportunity to study in Lisbon, Portugal for two semesters, and I have since graduated with a First Class Honours. After graduating, I moved to Doha, Qatar to take up my first teaching position as a Year 1 teacher. I completely resonate with the belief that if you choose a job that you love, you will never work a day in your life, and I am so thankful to St Joseph’s for empowering me to achieve my potential and fulfil my dream of becoming a teacher.


My advice to Primary 7 pupils venturing into the next stage of their education would be to believe in yourself, follow your heart, and choose a school that you know you will be happy in because life is too short to be anything but. If you choose St. Joseph’s Grammar School, you are not just choosing a school, but a journey, where you will be inspired and encouraged to be the best version of yourself and to make your dreams a reality. 

Past Pupil Testimonial

-  Padraig Quinn

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I began my school life in St Joseph’s Grammar school in September 2010. Joining St. Joseph’s was quite a big transition for myself, I had previously attended Primary School at St Patrick’s Primary School Mullinahoe, Ardboe. I was the first pupil from my primary school to attend St. Joseph’s in nearly a decade and was the first male pupil since the school only began accepting male pupils in 2003.

The idea of moving to a somewhat smaller school compared to the other schools within the local area was what greatly appealed to me on my first visit to the school during the annual open night. I had been somewhat shy and inward-looking child when I look back on when I started St Joseph’s surprisingly to anyone who knows me now, however the previously mentioned small nature of the school allowed me to get to know not only my peers well, but also all the teachers I had during my time here. However, the small nature of the school did not limit the facilities and range of GCSE and A-Level subjects that were on offer. This, the great academic success St Joseph’s prides itself on and extra-curricular opportunities were something that greatly appealed to my parents at the time when I was applying to the school.

My time at St Joseph’s is filled with numerous fond memories. These range from having the great honour of becoming Head Boy being bestowed upon me, to the various Gaelic football and soccer tournaments and after school sessions, my achievements with the St Joseph’s Concern Debate Team coming third in the Northern Ireland Competition, to various school trips away to London, Milan and Krakow. These trips and extra-curricular activities still are fondly remembered by myself, even when I bump into old classmates all these years later these great days are always brought up within a few short minutes, showing the tremendous lasting impact that St. Joseph’s has had on our lives. All these years after leaving St Joseph’s I still have countless friends who I am in contact with on a regular basis, my time with the school even led me to creating friends and connections across the Mid-Ulster area which have stood to me to this day, with even my best friends from St Joseph’s being a big part of my life today.

At A-Level in St Joseph’s I studied Geography, History, Religion and English. From an early age I always had kindled an ambition to eventually study a degree in Law at a future stage in my career. The A-Level subjects that I studied and the great guidance from the teaching staff at St Joseph’s helped confirm to me that studying Law at university and eventually having a career in the legal field could be more than just a possibility but a reality. The support both academically and pastorally that I received from the teaching and non-teaching staff at St. Joseph’s helped me to achieve my long-term ambitions of studying a degree in the field of legal studies at university, for this I will be forever grateful.

After leaving St Joseph’s Grammar School I was accepted into Queen’s University, Belfast to study a degree in Law and Politics. As a student at Queen’s, I had an incredibly enjoyable time, making numerous new friends in a completely new environment. During my time at Queen’s, I had the great privilege of being elected to the Student’s Union Council by my fellow pupils, topping the poll across the University cohort. This was an enormous privilege for myself, granting me the opportunity to speak at Council events in both the chambers of Stormont and Belfast City Hall. The time I spent on the Student’s Council at St Joseph’s was of great benefit to me here to understand the importance of the student voice in educational establishments, something that St. Joseph’s has promoted for many years.

During my time studying my degree, I was afforded the opportunity of working for a local solicitors based in Dungannon as a paralegal over the course of two summers between my degree studies. This allowed me to attend some very high-profile legal cases within the High Courts at Belfast and interact with some of the most prestigious solicitors and barristers within the local jurisdiction. I graduated from Queen’s with Upper Second-Class Honours.

Following the covid outbreak I was afforded the opportunity to work as part of the non-teaching staff within the school, an opportunity to give back to the school I have so much to thank for. After this I was employed by the local Dungannon based solicitors Rafferty & Donaghy as a paralegal, currently I have been granted the privilege of becoming an Apprentice Solicitor under the pupillage of Mr. Francis Rafferty LLB, this involves a mix of employment at the firm I am with while also studying a Post-Graduate Diploma at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast. This means I will be a fully qualified solicitor in 2023.

If anyone was to ask me to recommend a school, I would without hesitation recommend St Joseph’s Grammar School, Donaghmore. I have not only some of the happiest memories from my time at St Joseph’s, but also some of the most important life lessons that I have ever received and that have stood to me in my adult life. The efforts from the teaching and non-teaching staff are second to none and were always of great support to not just me but my two siblings who followed behind me in attending St. Joseph’s, my sister still being part of the St Joseph’s family in Sixth Form. Even all these years after I have left as a pupil and despite the new facilities, it is the fantastic ethos around the school that ensures that new pupils entering First Year will have the best seven years at St Joseph’s that they could ask for. I know if I could turn the clock back, I would love to be starting my journey at St Joseph’s all over again.

Past Pupil Testimonial

-  Julia Kuplias

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I chose the apprenticeship route because, during my time in school, I discovered that I am a practical learner who thrives in hands-on environments, as evidenced by my performance in subjects like Art and Design & Technology.


Embarking on an apprenticeship involves not only applying and securing a place in the desired course but also finding a suitable employer. To streamline this process, I utilised the Workplus website, which facilitated the completion of an application form applicable to multiple employers. The platform also provided guidance on relevant courses for specific employers.


In September 2023, I commenced my Higher Level Apprenticeship (Level 5) in Civil Engineering. This program requires me to attend classes once a week at Belfast Metropolitan College , with the remaining four days dedicated to on-thejob experience. I am thoroughly enjoying my apprenticeship at Environment Techniques, a company specialising in drainage investigation surveys and repair/ rehab work across Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Their distinctive approach involves trenchless technology to minimise environmental impact.

As an Assistant Project Manager, I have been exposed to various facets of each project. My responsibilities include crafting health and safety documents, compiling deliverables, communicating with clients, contributing to tender submissions for frameworks, developing construction phase plans, quality-checking survey information, utilising AutoCAD, creating schematics, and overseeing job progress. Recently, I’ve also been involved in the recruitment process for operatives. This diverse role provides me with invaluable experience not only in Civil Engineering within the water industry but also in Project Management.


Despite the demanding schedule of attending classes and working, I find the experience highly rewarding. The small class size at Belfast Met (20-30 people) fosters an interactive and supportive learning environment. Balancing academic commitments with on-thejob responsibilities requires effort, but I wholeheartedly recommend this apprenticeship route. I am confident that, upon completion, I will emerge with substantial knowledge and experience in both Civil Engineering and Project Management.

Past Pupil Testimonial

-  Liam Carberry

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My journey at St. Joseph’s began in September of 2016, having come from a small rural primary school in Galbally the idea of a large secondary school was quite daunting. However, the tightknit and warm atmosphere around St. Joseph’s made me feel right at home. I remember staff and older students at Donaghmore going out of their way to ensure myself and fellow first years felt at ease. Choosing Donaghmore was an easy decision for me to make. Being the last of six children in my family who had all attended St. Joseph’s before me it had been a natural choice for me to make. Despite this, the variety of choice offered at St. Joseph’s from academic, sports, music, arts and social, it really did make my decision that bit easier.


Looking back on my time at St. Joseph’s I am filled with nothing but fondness and gratitude for a wonderful seven years spent in a place that has shaped me into the person I am today.


Throughout those seven years, the variety of activities that was offered to me was nothing short of amazing. I have gotten to take part in various Past Pupil Testimonial trips and events that have bridged the gap between academics and extracurriculars. In third year, I got to undertake a trip to Rome with the religion department. During this trip we got to visit some of the most exciting things Italy has to offer. From tasting proper Italian food, to sightseeing at the colosseum and an unforgettable audience with Pope Francis. These are some of my most fond memories and ones which will last a lifetime.


I was also offered the opportunity to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. During this experience I got to develop skills, including teamwork, leadership and problem solving, all of which are transferable skills that will follow me throughout university and into my career. Throughout this award we took expeditions to various exciting and challenging terrain including the Mourne mountains and the Sperrin’s. Not only was this experience extremely valuable in learning life and practical skills but it was also filled with good criac and even better company.


In my final year at St. Joseph’s, I had the great honour of being appointed as head boy. In this position I had the opportunity to represent the school in various capacities. Throughout the year the school also celebrated the centenary year of the daughters of the cross.

This gave me the opportunity to participate in a once in a life time experience of going to the RTE studios to participate in a live, televised school mass to commemorate and acknowledge the commitment and dedication of the daughters of the cross in the development of our school. This was such a memorable and unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t have been possible at any other school.


One of my proudest moments at St. Joseph’s was when my artwork was selected for the annual True colour’s exhibition in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. This was monumental for me, and I wouldn’t have been able to achieve such an accomplishment without the support and guidance from the department teachers who constantly encouraged me to achieve my best and instil a confidence in my own ability.


St. Joseph’s is not only full of amazing opportunities and trips to get involved in, but the level of teaching is nothing short of fantastic. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the teachers and staff worked tirelessly to ensure that their students still achieved the education and grades that they deserved. This helped make the transition from GCSE to a level that bit less daunting. For my AS and A levels I decided to study Chemistry, Biology, Art and Maths. Subjects which helped prepare me for the rigour of medical school. Throughout my university application process there were constantly new challenges from personal statement to interviews to entrance exams, the list does go on. However, the careers department were always there to offer support and advice to any queries I might have had. As well as this they organised work experience, conducted mock interviews and enabled us to have discussions with experienced doctors. St. Joseph’s helped to best prepare me for the next step in my academic career.


Upon achievement of A level’s, the school prompted me to apply for the JP McManus, All Ireland Scholarship. To my surprise and extreme gratitude, I was awarded this very sought-after prize. This has made life at medical school a bit less stressful, if that’s possible, by easing the financial burden of tuition fees. I was instantly so thankful and grateful, and I can whole heartedly say that if it wasn’t for the support provided by staff at St. Joseph’s then achievement of this scholarship would not have been possible.


Upon leaving St. Joseph’s, I brought with me friendships that will last forever, memories that I will cherish and a great sense of pride in my accomplishments. I can wholeheartedly say that my choice to study at St. Joseph’s is the reason that I am where I am today.

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