Cookstown High School’s annual Prize Day was held on Friday, September 20 in the Miller Hall.
It was a wonderful celebration of the success, achievement and hard work of the pupils and was magnificently supported by hundreds of prize winners, staff, parents and friends of the school.
The guest of honour at the proceedings was Dr Jonathan Coulter, a former past pupil of the chool and Senior Lecturer in Nanotherapeutics at Queen’s University Belfast. After having completed his degree at the University of St Andrews’, Dr Coulter continued his PHD studies at Queen’s University researching prostate cancer gene therapy. A senior lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast, Dr Coulter and his research group develop new drugs that increase the effectiveness of current cancer treatments.
Rev T Greer opened Prize Day in prayer and the chair of governors, Mrs Dripps, addressed the audience, expressing her thanks to the members of staff and Board of Governors who have worked diligently over the previous years and have now left, and warmly welcomed both the new staff and the newly reconstituted Board of Governors.
Praising the hard work and dedication of the staff who have worked tirelessly to equip the pupils with the life skills needed in the wider world, Mrs Dripps also commended staff for the many extracurricular opportunities available for pupils. She expressed her deep pride for Cookstown High School as a combined grammar and secondary school, and thanked the pupils for their hard work, their manners, skills and academic achievements. Mrs Dripps thanked Miss Evans, the Principal, for her devotion and passion for the school which is particularly evident in the physical improvements to the building.
Mrs Dripps concluded by reaffirming that; “We strive to give our children the best and this is found at Cookstown High School,” and as an excellent school with excellent results, we stand up and are proud to be a part of the Cookstown High School community.
Following Mrs Dripp’s address, the Principal conveyed her thanks to the staff and community of Cookstown High School, and paid tribute to the former Head Boy and Head Girl. As a school founded on Christian principles the uniqueness of each individual pupil is deeply valued and pupils of all abilities are encouraged to achieve their potential.
Miss Evans reflected on the collective achievements of grammar pupils and secondary pupils at Cookstown High School and celebrated the school’s highest ever results recorded at A Level and GCSE and acknowledged the hard work of pupils, staff, parents and school community. At both GCSE and A Level, Cookstown High School is above the Northern Ireland average at A* and A grades, improving by 8% on last year at GCSE. At A Level the school saw an increase of 10% in pupils achieving A*-C - reflecting the strength, confidence and belief to strive even further to achieve.
Highlights of the previous year were recounted including fantastic opportunities for pupils in extracurricular activities: sporting success, oversea trips, and music events, to name but a few, all of which are ‘vital to pupil experience.’
Miss Evans praised the, ‘generous spirit across the school community’ as she announced the school had raised an incredible £23,730 for multiple charities across multiple events, of which including a ‘Fashion Show’ and a vibrant and fun ‘Colour Run’.
In concluding, Miss Evans emphasised the lifelong process of education and that the High School will provide the best education in the process – “it is at the heart of all we do.”
Miss Evans remarked that is a privilege to educate the pupils of Cookstown High School, quoting WB Yeats, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail; but the lighting of a fire,’ highlighting the limitless potential of each pupil and the endless possibilities of where education can take them.
After the singing of ‘Great is Your Faithfulness’, prize winners were acknowledged for their success and achievement in the previous academic year and their accomplishments were recognised with individual awards. The audience then sung, ‘In Christ Alone’ after the distribution of awards. The hall was treated to a delightful rendition of ‘Africa’ by the Junior Choir, a real showcase of the creativity and talents of the choir and the Music department. This was immediately followed by a beautiful piano and violin duet from Bobbi Kane and Emily Millar.
Dr Coulter’s address was both inspiring, engaging and humorous as he reminded pupils of how precious their time in school is. He reminisced that his ‘seven years at Cookstown High School were fantastic,’ and encouraged the pupils to plan and dream what their future might hold while they are still at school. Dr Coulter reminded the audience to, ‘dream no little dream,’ to strive beyond what is possible or what we can achieve. He impressed upon them the importance of building their individual character and stressed that it is just as important as their academic success, and urged that we can be more impactful when we consider who we are becoming and how we learn.
Dr Coulter offered three pieces of advice for the pupils to take away with them and reflect upon. Firstly, he told them to, ‘work for something bigger than yourself,’ and demonstrated the merits of collaborative work, problem solving and job satisfaction. Secondly, Dr Coulter told his audience to always, “be the most hopeful person in the room.’ He conveyed the importance of having a good attitude and how a positive attitude often carries the most influence in a situation. His final point was to make sure to, ‘do the small things well.’ Being trusted with the small things can often show an employer you can be trusted with more responsibility.
Dr Coulter concluded his address by congratulating everyone on their success and in all things, to do everything to the best of your ability.
Andrew Shaw, Head Boy, thanked Dr Coulter for his very engaging and motivating speech and Lauren Mitchell, Head Girl then made a presentation to Dr. Coulter. Rev Greer closed the afternoon in prayer and the ceremony concluded with the singing of the school anthem. It was a wonderful afternoon of celebration and it showcased the incredible and diverse talents and successes of the pupils who attend Cookstown High School.