My Experience at the Savvy Teen Academy July 2015

This summer I took part in the first ever  #SavvyTeenAcademy. I enrolled to gain valuable life skills that would boost my confidence, improve my communication and help determine my career. At the time of enrolling I did not know who or how many would be at this but I knew it was too good an opportunity to miss.

The 6th of July  - the first day of the #SavvyTeenAcademy arrived and I could feel the butterflies in my stomach.  All that was going through my mind was:  Will I get on with everyone? They all might know each other! Who will I sit beside? When we arrived at Griffith College, I was met in the lobby by a smiling Susan HayesCulleton. She brought myself and a

My experience at the SavvyTeenAcademy

few others up in the elevator. It was a quiet trip, everyone was nervous. When the lift stopped Susan introduced us to Monica Murphy. Monica welcomed us all to the #SavvyTeenAcademy, signed us in and gave us name badges.

Monica then told us that it was normal to be a little nervous, as only two participants knew each other.  Immediately I felt at ease, everyone was in the same position. It wasn't just me. When everyone was seated, Monica and Susan introduced themselves. They told us about their careers and the aim for the week and how the #SavvyTeenAcademy came about when they identified so many people that they deliver training to who seem to lack motivation for their work. The main aim of the #SavvyTeenAcademy, they said, was to prevent us from becoming disengaged, disgruntled workers of the future. Then, we all introduced ourselves.

The topic of Monday was 'Building Confidence'. Monica gave us some tips and techniques on how to build confidence as well as how to disagree agreeably.  At lunch, we all were at one table so it was easier to get to know each other and everyone was able to participate in one conversation. After lunch, we had to put our confidence skills in place and present in front of everyone. While this was slightly terrifying, we were all there to learn and support one another and it was good to put what we had learned during the day to practice.

The topic for Tuesday was 'Communicating as a Team'. In the morning, we welcomed Ger Brennan, a Dublin Footballer. Ger talked about the importance of communicating in a team and how to communicate with people that we have just been introduced to. He made it sound easy to approach a new person and say "Hello, how are you". It's such an easy thing to do yet so many teenagers struggle with it. We did some role-plays and exercises to help put these skills into practice. After Ger, Monica went through the 'Theory of Communicating' as a team and told us about Tuckman's model of team formation - it makes sense now that groups go through forming and norming before becoming a team and performing together. Knowing that these things have a process, makes it easier to have faith in them that they will turn out ok. This will be really helpful to know when faced with entering new teams and groups of friends in college.  In the afternoon, Aine Flynn from the Irish Army came to speak to us about communicating in intense situations. As well as that, Aine spoke to us about the multiple career options in the Army.

Wednesday was all about 'Carving out your own Path' and it it was Susan's turn to share with us some study techniques. These were techniques worth listening to from a girl who got the best Leaving Certificate results in her school! She told us in order to study successfully, you should trick your brain to like studying. One thing I personally took from it was to associate landmarks with theories or principles that you need to remember. Then the poem becomes real to you when your neighbour's vegetable garden represents, for example, 'the stony grey soil of Monaghan'! Susan took us through a "Career Workshop" where she asked us some highly thought-provoking questions including

- What is an ideal day in your future workplace?
- What does work/life balance mean to you?
- H
ow can you combine what you love into a career?

Many of us thought we had barriers in front of us because we didn't study a certain subject in school, didn't know how to actually apply for that job or thought it was just too ambitious. She quickly and deftly sliced through each one where I really thought anything was possible by the end of that session. After the break, Monica gave us tips on how to write a CV and a cover letter and we all wrote a draft of our first one. This was also useful and we were encouraged to send her the finished result so she could give us feedback on it.

We learned how to write about our skills and abilities in a way that we would never have thought of before. At lunch, Susan suggested to us to put our confidence and communication skills in place by going over to talk to the Spanish and Italian students who were learning English at Griffith College. This was great fun and everyone had a good laugh. I took my courage in my hands and went off to a table of strangers and ended up chatting to them for about five minutes. In the afternoon, we welcomed Fionbarr Walsh, the father of the late Donal Walsh. He told us about Donal's story and legacy. It was amazing to hear the impact Donal Walsh made in such a short period of time and we were all touched by his bravery and reminded of how important it is to live our lives to the fullest.

Thursday was all about 'Budgeting, Saving and Money'. Susan told us ways to make money without the traditional route of getting job. This was fascinating and opened my mind to potential opportunities I hadn't thought about before.  Afterwards, I registered with market research sites, mystery shopping communities and entered competitions. As well as that, Susan thought us how to buy a share. This was really interesting and definitely something I will do in the future! After lunch, we welcomed Terry Clune, the CEO of the Taxback Group and 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year. Terry talked us about how he set up his business and told us that you are never too young to start a business. This was really interesting and got everyone thinking on what business they will set up!

This was the last day of the #SavvyTeenAcademy. In the morning, we had a discussion from Aoife Weissman, a nurse, from Charter Medical and Niamh Gallagher from They answered any questions relating to Drink, Drugs and Sex that we had. This was very well done without being judgmental or 'preachy'. After the break, Monica went through 'Digital Skills' and 'Online Reputation' and just reminded us of the importance of maintaining a good 'Digital Footprint' as we go through life.

For the final lunch, Susan decided to ask the Italians to teach us the Macarena in the middle of the canteen. So, the ten of us and ten Italians were there in the middle of a canteen full of students doing the Macarena. After lunch, Emer Halpenny from Emer Halpenny School of Drama came and did a ''Drama Workshop' with us. It was a great way to end the day. At the end of the day, we all received a certificate and a signed copy of Susan's book: 'The Savvy Guide to Making more Money". When it was officially finished we all said goodbye and promised to stay in contact with each other.

The week I spent at the #SavvyTeenAcademy was the best week of my summer. Not only did I gain valuable life skills; confidence and the ability to communicate better, I had amazing fun and many laughs. I got to meet some great people like Fionbarr Walsh, Terry Clune and Ger Brennan and I also gained ten new friends and two new role models in Monica Murphy and Susan HayesCulleton.

What is Savvy Teen Academy?

SavvyTeenAcademy is a five-day, Monday to Friday, summer camp for teenagers about to enter 5th or 6th year (or Repeating)

Teenagers can have big dreams and aspirations, but can be at a loss where to start, or think they are too shy to go after what they want. They also have to juggle expectations from parents and teachers, a demanding study schedule as well as navigating intense friendships and peer relationships.

SavvyTeenAcademy offers a caring environment for turbo-charged, hands-on learning. It will be an intense week of transformation, with lots of fun and new friendships.

After five days at SavvyTeenAcademy, students will be armed with a panoply of practical tools they will be able to use in many life situations: passing exams, applying for jobs, networking and confidently taking their life in the best direction.

SavvyTeenAcademy is NOT a traditional course based on the school curriculum.

What will students learn at SavvyTeenAcademy?

Find out more - Dates and Programmes page

The #SavvyTeenAcademy Team