Belvedere College - SOAR




Last week, during Religion on a Tuesday, all of Rhetoric met in the Lecture Theatre for a life skills session run by the SOAR Foundation, and led by Tony Griffin and Karl Swan. The two travel the country, running these sessions wherever they can. To quote directly from their website;

Soar creates and delivers early intervention preventative programs for young people from all backgrounds, where within a safe and supportive environment they are given the opportunity to be themselves, to build emotional awareness, self-confidence, peer respect, self-belief and resiliency.

By themselves, I have no doubt Tony and Karl could have managed a fantastic session, but when they visited us, they also brought a guest. For two weeks only, Kerry Max Cook was in Ireland working with the SOAR Foundation, and we were lucky enough to be one of the last of the schools he visited in those two weeks.

Kerry Max Cook has, without a doubt, one of the most inspiring personal stories in the world. Wrongly convicted of a rape and murder he didn’t commit, Kerry spent 22 years on Texas’ death row. During that time, Human Rights Watch, an international watch dog for human rights, described him as the most brutalised inmate in the American prison system.

During the two short hours we spent in his company last Tuesday, Kerry Max Cook changed all of our lives. As he described his own experience of oppression and entrapment, he called on any of us who were willing to share any difficulties we had been through to do so. And when people stepped forward, no matter what they said, he made sure everyone knew exactly how hard it can be to share the personal moments of our lives.
The atmosphere Kerry created was near indescribable. His own baring of his soul to a crowd of strangers was inspiring, and it inspired others to do the same. The experience we as a year group had was unique, and will hopefully lend meaning to this, our final year together. We have shared something that few groups so large have ever had the good fortune to, and it has changed some of our lives forever.

Special thanks must be given to the SOAR Foundation, particularly Tony Griffin and Karl Swan, and the school’s Pastoral department for their role in the organisation of the talk, and, of course, to Kerry Max Cook, for being willing to share himself, heart and soul, with us.


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