More than 300 post-primary age children from across the Midlands competed in Athlone Institute of Technology’s inaugural Diversity Games on Wednesday. Supported by the Department of Justice and Equality’s Community Integration Fund and the Offaly Sports Partnership, the Games were set up to encourage students from ethnic minority and immigrant backgrounds to compete in the sport of athletics.
Opening the Games, Minister of State for the Department of Justice and Equality Dave Staunton spoke about the transcendent nature of sport and its ability to act as a vehicle for integration. “Participation in sports, or joining a sports club, teaches us invaluable lessons, such as teamwork, comradery and a sense of belonging. Communication barriers are overcome because the sport itself becomes the common language. Differences in religion, background or skin colour all become irrelevant.”
He also mentioned the Migrant Integration Strategy and its value in helping propel forward an agenda of inclusion: “We will continue to explore the potential of sport in the integration of all migrants through encouraging active participation, volunteering and involvement for all, and by providing funding to local sports initiatives, like Athlone Institute of Technology’s inaugural Diversity Games, which seek to celebrate diverse communities.”
The Games, which were held in the institute’s state-of-the-art international arena, saw students from a variety of ethnic minority and immigrant backgrounds compete in a 60m, 200m, 400m, 600m, long jump and a 4 x 200m relay. Participating students came from a mix of schools, including Athlone Community College, Cólaiste Choilm, Tullamore, Coláiste Íosagáín, Portarlington, Mountmellick Community College, Mullingar Community College, Portlaoise CBS, Sacred Heart School, Tullamore, St Mary’s Secondary School, Edenderry, Tullamore College and Mercy College, Sligo.
With more than 6,000 students from 62 nations around the world calling Athlone Institute of Technology their “home away from home”, the institute is a veritable melting pot of cultures, creeds and ethnicities, one that celebrates and encourages diversity. Commenting ahead of the Games, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Registry, Dr Niall Seery said: “We have a unique responsibility to our diverse student body and to the communities in which they reside, to continue driving forward an agenda of social inclusion that embraces, rather than disregards, diversity. As an institute, we have long been characterised by a commitment to academic rigour, innovations in teaching and applied research and an impressive graduate employability rate.
“Now, as the sole higher education institute in the Midlands, we must too be defined by a commitment to social and cultural development with a view to widening third level participation, particularly amongst marginalised groups. It is vital that we encourage our young people to embrace their diversity, their athleticism and boundless, as-of-yet untapped, potential. If nurtured, each of today’s participating athletes will blossom, unleashing the possibility of a bright and upwardly mobile future. We want to be part of championing that future for the benefit of all.”
In keeping with the provision of providing an equal opportunity learning environment for all, Athlone Institute of Technology runs a number of programmes to encourage third level participation across all stratas of society, including an Access programme designed to equip early school leavers, mature students, and others, with the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to progress to third level education. Participants on this programme have achieved great success with many going on to complete bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and even PhDs. The institute also offers the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE), which is an admissions scheme for school-leavers with disabilities, and the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR), which offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Commenting on the success of the Games, AIT Commercial Manager Paul Colburn added: “Diversity has many positive attributes, including encouraging innovation and creativity through a sharing of perspectives and worldviews. It ultimately makes us, as a community, more powerful. Our inaugural Diversity Games, which took place here today, celebrated and encouraged this diversity with the view to bolstering community integration. I welcome the opportunity to build upon the success of this event next year.”
Over the past number of years, the Department of Justice and Equality’s Community Integration Fund has played an integral role in facilitating social inclusion at a community level across Ireland. This has been achieved through the delivery of locally-based projects that contribute to inclusion, diversity and integration, such as Athlone Institute of Technology’s inaugural Diversity Games.
Athlone Institute of Technology is a modern and dynamic HEI distinguished by outstanding learner experience, international focus and applied research and innovation. Awarded Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year 2018, AIT is currently ranked 8th nationally of all HEIs in the league table comprising of Irish Universities and IoT’s. Athlone Institute of Technology boasts a wide array of courses in the Faculties of Engineering and Informatics, Business and Hospitality, and Science and Health. For the full list of courses on offer at Athlone Institute of Technology click here.