It was a typical Saturday morning for me and my family, at least at the time I thought so. My dad was at the grocery store and my brother, Sean, was working. I was sitting on the front porch with my Mom and second little brother, Christian (he actually towers over me in height– not so little!). My Mom and I were talking about taking a spinning class together when my phone notified me that I had one unread email from Aimee Shiels. I’m almost certain my jaw hit the floor when I opened the email and read that I was accepted into the Victory Scholar program for the 2017-2018 school year. Like any Mom, mine started crying tears of joy and Christian gave me the biggest hug. A hug I will always remember.
Now let’s flash forward three months later to the day of the Victory Scholar Launch in NYC! I woke up that morning excited to meet 23 new faces and begin our year-long journey to Ireland. The lunch was great. It was a nice gathering to enjoy one last meal with our family and friends before traveling over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. After saying our goodbyes to our loved ones, we headed to JFK airport. We had an overnight flight so I slept most of the way which was nice because we landed in Ireland at 8 AM. When we arrived in Dublin, we immediately traveled to Belfast. For the next 10 days, we stayed at Ulster University. Over the course of this time, we did a lot of different training certifications for the program and we also were able to tour a little of Belfast! As a group, we did a hike up Cave Hill (its peak looks over the city of Belfast—the view from the top is truly indescribable!) and we were able to visit a few of the local pubs. After spending 10 jammed-packed days getting to know one another, it was very sad saying our goodbyes as we all departed for our respective University and Institutes. I loved getting to know everyone and hearing their stories. I can’t wait to stay updated with everyone’s individual journeys and their community involvement!
Chaz, Mak, and I have settled into our house in Letterkenny. It’s down the street from LYIT and the town is only about a 10-minute walk away! Everyone who we have met so far within the community has been so welcoming and kind. They have welcomed us with open arms and have treated us like family. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to everyone in the community. They’ve made being so far away from home seem like I never really left. Mak and I had our first National team practice the other day. The girls and coaching staff are great. A few girls on our team actually took us on a drive after practice and showed us around town. This past Friday, we attended a coaching session. Here, we were able to meet some of the local youth coaches and interact with them about their upcoming seasons. I can’t wait to help out with the club teams and work with the community leaders. This year is going to be a blast!
It is an honor to have been chosen for this opportunity. I am so grateful for the Sport Changes Life program and the Rory Foundation for believing in my ability to positively impact the local disadvantaged youth. Whether it’s teaching basketball; working with the community; or mentoring the local youth, I cannot wait to start this amazing journey and create long-lasting relationships with the Letterkenny community.
“How can you tell if an Irishman is having a good time?”
“He’s Dublin over with laughter!”