For the 14 students who traveled to Ireland with Professors Suzanne St. Germain and Susan Donnellan, it was more than a trip to the Old Sod.  It was an insight into the education system of Ireland, a journey into history and the opportunity to get to know education counterparts in a country that is at the same time similar, yet so foreign.

The trip, part of the course “Psychology of Education- International Perspectives: Ireland” included visits at five educational institutions and a whirlwind tour of sites that are centuries old.
The group visited the Marino Special Education School for ages 3 to 18 that specializes in individualized educational plans for children with disabilities, behavioral issues and learning disabilities. For Jayson Clark, a student on the trip, this was a life-changing event. “The opportunity to visit this school took me out of my comfort zone.  Before the visit I was terrified of being in a special needs classroom …would I be able to relate and connect?” he says.  “The students in the Marino Special School were so full of excitement and joy that it allowed me to look past my fear and really connect with these amazing talented students and to see that every child’s education can be achieved no matter what their needs are.”

Then the group stopped at Bright Horizons where the children range from infants and toddlers to pre-school and pre-K.  “They were very welcoming and the children were very happy in their colorful setting and were well cared for,” says Professor St. Germain.

The students also visited National Schools; public schools that provide underprivileged children the opportunity to get an education, assure they will have a morning meal and after-school programs.  “It’s about more than just education,” says St. Germain.  “It is about keeping them safe. The children in the national schools have parents that are itinerant.  They live in trailers on the side of the highway and are always on the move.  The schools do the best they can.”

Some of the facilities, St. Germain adds, are in the suburbs of Dublin, almost a two-hour bus ride away.  They also visited the Mary Immaculate Junior National School and Senior National Schools, serving K-5, and grades 6 to high school.

“Our students toured for two hours in each school, which gave them an insight into the Irish educational system and helped us learn what they are doing,” says Professor St. Germain.  “The school is the focal point of survival for many of these students.  Their life and their safety revolve around them.”

Although the curricula are similar to those in the United States, and the teachers are equally committed, it is a challenge. “The National Schools are teaching the pre-vocational skills that they hope will allow these young people to break the cycle of poverty, violence and drugs.”

The schools are for the most part, funded by the government. “There is an anonymous millionaire who gives money every year to the public schools, but only to the after-school program,” says St. Germain. “He is not donating to the curriculum, but to the after-school programs, because that provides nutrition and keeps the students in a safe environment until 6 pm.”

Another highlight of the week of travel included visits to historic sites including the Irish Emigration Museum that traces the 10 million people who have left the isle of Ireland to land all over the globe and who have changed the world.

“A wonderful moment for us was on a guided tour of Christ Church Cathedral where we climbed into the belfry and got to ring the bells,” says St. Germain.  After reaching the heights, they descended into the crypt of that oldest continuously used building in Dublin.

The tour continued with a visit to Trinity College and a viewing of the Book of Kells.  The book is Ireland’s greatest treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The book from the 9th century is a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Christ.

Another amazing moment, says St. Germain was a visit to the Newgrange UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This Neolithic monument constructed about 3,200 B.C., is older than Stonehenge and when the winter solstice occurs, the passage lights up.  “It is an ancient clock, built with stones that had to be transported over boulders in rivers and by pulleys to create the formation.  It is an architectural masterpiece.”

The students also visited the Malahide Castle, stood on the Cliffs of Moher, 702 feet above sea level (about 50 stories) and had a chance to sample local food and do some sightseeing in Galway.

It was a memorable experience, says Professor St. Germain and each student vowed to return.

“This trip will remain in my heart forever and I can’t wait until the day I get to go back and discover more of this beautiful land. The relationships and bonds formed over just a week blew my mind. These people are no longer strangers to me, but family,” says student Brandy Bussiere.

Student Gaylan Garraway says her takeaway was what she learned about her chosen profession. “Being a teacher is so much more than passing on knowledge from one mind to the other. Through this trip, I have gotten the opportunity to learn that to be a teacher you must be willing to be vulnerable to your students in order to help them to open up and grow. You must give them a part of yourself in order to form a bond, and from that bond, inspire them to look at their peers as not only classmates, but friends.”

And Teresa Ball expressed her appreciation for Professors St. Germain and Donnellan, “I can’t even put into words how grateful I am to have these two professors in my life and how much they have changed my outlook on my career, my major and myself.”

Mount Ida was almost 100 walkers-strong at the Walk for Change event to benefit the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the work the Center does in support of sexual assault survivors and their families.

“The Mount Ida Mustangs team raised over $1,000 and we were the largest team at the Walk this year,” says Beth Grampetro, Director of Mount Ida Wellness Services.
“It’s our second year of doing the Walk for Change as a group and we are proud to be a sponsor.”

The Walk, held on April 23, raised over $200,000 for BARCC. BARCC is the only provider of comprehensive rape crisis services in the greater Boston area. These services include a 24-hour hotline and hospital accompaniment, as well as legal and community education programs. In the last year alone, BARCC has helped over 4,000 survivors and their loved ones and another 10,000 people through prevention education, training and outreach.

Fashion Futures 2017, the all student-produced runway show takes weeks of preparation and behind-the-scenes work to pull off.   Marina Porl, a Fashion Industry Marketing and Management major at Mount Ida College is working hard on the event team to assure the house is packed and the event goes off without a hitch.

Each day Porl brings her enthusiasm for fashion combined with unique hands-on experience and is looking forward to making the show the best yet.

“I’ve always loved fashion,” says Marina, who grew up in White River Junction, Vermont.  “I started out sewing but quickly knew that it was the field of marketing that intrigued me.”

When she got to Mount Ida, she connected to Professors Kathleen Potter and Leo Archambault who not only taught her the ropes, but helped arrange for an internship at Duchess Boutique, a small fashion and accessories store in Newton Centre.

“I really enjoy the boutique atmosphere,” says Marina.  “I can connect with each customer, many of whom return each week to find out what they want and to help them select the perfect outfit and accessories.”  One of the best parts, she adds is “learning what it takes to run a successful boutique from the buying, to the planning, to the window displays and dressing the mannequins.”

This summer she’ll be headed to Maine, where her grandmother, with whom she and her sister will live,  is relocating.  “There are a lot of possibilities in the Portland and Freeport areas for me to pursue.”  With a love of the outdoors, LL Bean and so many fashion boutiques and outlet stores, the choices are exciting.

When she returns for her senior year, with more professional experience and the marketing of the Fashion Futures under her belt, she says she’s ready to tackle whatever comes her way. Someday, she says she would like to own a boutique, but for now, it’s about the learning.