Salesian College students scoop European Company of the Year 2012 Award

Five students from Salesian Secondary College, Pallaskenry, and their company Sign4Life beat off stiff opposition from teams from 32 countries to scoop Company of the Year 2012, a Europe-wide competition held in Bucharest and run by Junior Achievement Ireland, Europe’s leading organisation bringing enterprise education into schools. Sign4Life teaches sign language through a smartphone application and is designed to bridge the gap between hearing and deaf communities. It uses video technology through the smartphone to reach users of Irish sign language in everyday categories such as food, numbers, sport, calendar, colours and family. The template can be adapted to any international language. The team, Ciara Reidy, Caoimhe O’Neill, Chris O’Brien, Fiona Mangan and Colleen Mullane won the national finals sponsored by Citi. With over 3,000 companies in Europe participating in the European Junior Achievement Company Programme, this year’s winners proved astute entrepreneurs.

Describing their reaction, Ciara Reidy said: “At first we thought maybe we would get something but then they called out second runner up and first runner up. Then they announced Ireland as the winner and we froze. We struggled to get to the podium. We were absolutely ecstatic.”

Colleen Mullane said: “Our motto was life has no limits except the ones we make ourselves.”

The Junior Achievement Company Programme is a hands-on business learning experience led by a trained business volunteer. The Sign4Life team were mentored by Geoffrey Blondelle from Dell and were assisted throughout the process by Dell employees who guided them in creating, operating and managing their own business. Paul Whooley, a teacher at Salesian College, played a pivotal role in assisting the group in all aspects of setting up their winning business. The Company Programme provides numerous opportunities for the development and reinforcement of important academic and leadership skills.

As part of the European finals in Bucharest the team had to promote and sell their product, perform a stage presentation and complete interviews with the judging panel. “Throughout each stage of the competition the five students were outstanding ambassadors for their school, Limerick and Ireland and very deserving winners of the JA European Company of the Year Award. It is a fantastic achievement for Limerick and I would like to acknowledge the enterprise and hard work of all the other students from the region who took part in the competition over the last 12 months. Special thanks to Dell for their support of Junior Achievement and for mentoring the students throughout the process,” said Teresa Leahy, Area Manager, JA.