Writes Ciaran Dineen
There aren’t many 22-year-olds who can say that they have been elected to office twice and preside over approximately 12,000 people, but this is the case for Ballygarvan’s own, Aaron Buckley.
Just under six weeks ago, Aaron came top of the poll in the race to become CIT Students’ Union President. It was in-fact a re-election for the ‘Ballygarvaner’, who was elected to the position 12 months earlier. Like any good leader, he used his experience and highlighted his past achievements while in office to his advantage, with his adoring fans baying for more. A few weeks after his electoral success, the President sat down with The Carrigdhoun to reveal all.
Originally a product of bustling Bishopstown, Aaron and his family moved to leafy Ballygarvan 15 years ago, when he was just seven years-old. At the time, it was a very difficult and upsetting move for the then youngster, who had to leave his friends behind. However, after some haggling with his parents, Aaron managed to convince them to allow him to stay in school in Bishopstown. “My parents wanted me to go to school in Ballygarvan”, the 22-year-old explains, “but I was so set on staying with my friends that I wanted to keep going to school in Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh. I’m really glad that I did that because it then led me on to going to secondary school in Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh.”
Despite maintaining his close links with his place of birth, Aaron says that he is a Ballygarvan man at heart. “One of the best decisions my parents ever made was to come to Ballygarvan. I’m a proud Ballygarvan man and it’s an incredible place with a brilliant community. I play hurling and football with Ballygarvan GAA club and it’s great to be a part of them and the community.”
Sport plays a big part in Aaron’s life, and he went on to study Recreational Leisure Management in CIT, before going on to complete a Level 8 Bachelor of Business degree, from which he graduated last October. It was before his exams in March 2018 when Buckley first thought about running for CIT SU President.
It’s fair to say that it was a bit of an off-the-cuff move for Aaron, who admits that compared to other candidates in times gone by, he was not as active within the college as is usually the norm. However, he did have certain ‘know-hows’, having put himself forward to act as class representative during his time studying. “It was during the snow last March and I had my form filled out on deadline day. I was humming and hawing about whether I should do it or not. In the end, I just went for it and I’ve never looked back since”, Aaron tells The Carrigdhoun.
Although shocked at the result from last year’s elections, Aaron stood on a platform that sought to address some very important issues that affect all students. These included; extending library opening times and highlighting the importance of addressing mental health. Another very well-liked proposal that the Ballygarvan man managed to achieve, was to prevent exams clashing with the ever-growing and very popular, ‘student race day’. Although these may not seem like hugely in-depth policy successes, they struck the right notes with CIT students, who repaid Aaron by re-electing him once again last month.
Speaking about the decision to seek a second year in office Aaron says, “I felt like I had more in me and more to give. I think I achieved about 95% of the stuff that I had promised to do in my first year. However, some things do take time and I believe that with a second year as President I can accomplish even more than before. I have more to give and more in my tank to continue to improve the student experience.”
This year Aaron wants to alleviate some of the pressures that students face in college. Spreading out the workload of exams and assignments is fundamental to achieving this, but Buckley also seeks to address the schedule of the academic year. CIT students have a different timetable to that of UCC, with an extended Christmas break which sees them effectively have all of January off from college.
Such an excessive gap is potentially damaging for students, as they run the risk of switching off and can become totally removed from the college mentality. Confronting issues such as this are on Aaron’s agenda for the year ahead, but he has come to the realisation that the process can sometimes be slow. “I want to get things done as soon as possible. When I say something, I want it to be acted on straight away. However, it’s not always that easy and this is across the board for colleges in Ireland, not just here in CIT. It’s probably the one aspect that has frustrated me the most over the last nine months.” Nevertheless, it is fair to suggest that the ‘red-tape’ that Aaron has encountered during his first stint as President, will prepare him for the challenges he may face during the remainder of his tenure.
Students today sometimes get a bad rap, particularly from the media, with University goers themselves often using the notorious phrase, ‘blame the students’ for their own satirical jibes. Being from Bishopstown originally, Aaron knows the community better than most of his colleagues, and given that CIT is of course situated in the heart of the area, it’s a perfect match.
It has been the case in the past where local communities find that the number of students living in close proximity to them, in student housing, is constantly on the rise. They argue that this is slowly taking its toll, and towns are slowly losing their tradition and sense of place as a result. While Aaron invariably bats for the opposing team, he understands some of the worries that this is creating. As a result, the CIT President has made a concerted effort to communicate with the residents.
“I am in regular contact with the Bishopstown Community Association. I want everyone to be happy and get on well, so I think it’s important from a student point-of-view that we make an effort to engage with the local community”, Aaron explains. “We only recently held a coffee morning for the Jack O’Driscoll fund, which we do every year, and we invited lots of local residents. It’s great to have that mixture of students, lecturers and then both young and old residents, having cups of tea and chatting to one another. It’s very important to build on those relationships, especially when we do get a bad reputation, predominantly from certain radio shows in Cork.”
Thankfully, due to his love for sport, Aaron is able to take out any frustrations on a good workout session. He is also well able to take a joke about his role, admitting that he is subject to the odd bit of stick from his Ballygarvan teammates. However, everything is done in jest and is accepted as ‘banter’ by the 22-year-old, who is very grateful to the GAA club for enabling him to make so many friends in Ballygarvan.
The support from his family has also led him to where he is today, particularly from his parents, Denis and Deirdre. He is also very thankful for the encouragement from his sister, Michaella, brother, Shane, and not to forget from his grandparents Paddy and Pamela Buckley and Maureen Creed, along with Godparents, Eileen and Bernard. It is sure to be another hectic 12 months for Aaron in his role as CIT SU President, but one which he clearly relishes.
From everyone at The Carrigdhoun, we want to wish Aaron the best of luck over the next year!
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