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Best friends Jack Rooney and Jack Deere started kindergarten at the Yonkers Montessori Academy

Irish smiles and tears as school resumes

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Best friends Jack Rooney and Jack Deere started kindergarten at the Yonkers Montessori Academy

Dinosaurs were the only things on the mind of four-year-old Patrick Dillon as he waited patiently with his parents, sister and grandfather for the door of his new school to open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 8.

Patrick, along with hundreds of other children, has been waiting all summer for his first day of school.

Patrick, while he waited with excitement beside his dad Patrick senior, told the Irish Voice and IrishCentral he wanted to learn all about dinosaurs when he got through the doors of the Yonkers Montessori Academy on Tuesday.  

 “I love dinosaurs,” said Patrick as he turned around to reveal a large “Ice Age” movie backpack with a picture of a dinosaur.

Trying to make a good impression on his new kindergarten teacher, Patrick opened up his Thomas the Tank lunch box.

“I brought the teacher an apple,” he said with a smile.

While mom Marilyn kept Patrick’s baby sister Gianna occupied, Patrick’s grandfather, Brian Dillon, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from County Galway and County Cork, took numerous pictures of his grandson.

“Look,” pointed Patrick as he noticed his friends with their parents come through the gates. Instantly Patrick looked more relaxed knowing he wasn’t going to be alone on the first day of this new venture.

For mom Sinead Horan, a County Galway emigrant, Tuesday meant double the heartache. Horan, who has lived in the U.S. for 14 years, was the first to arrive at the Montessori school with her two sons, Connor, 5 and Dara, 4.

It was the first day at school for both children. Although Dara, the younger of the two, was eager to get going, it was Connor who didn’t want to leave his mommy’s side.

When the boys were asked if they were excited about their first day, Connor shook his head sadly while Dara nodded with excitement.

As Dara ran up and down the steps of the school, Connor sat quietly on a corner step not looking too pleased.

“There could be tears yet from this one,” smiled Horan as she prepared to say goodbye to her two boys.

Tuesday was also a special day for the Birdy family. Sinead, from County Westmeath and Gary, from County Monaghan, held on tight to the hand of their four-year old daughter Aoife, who was dressed in a neatly pressed navy uniform with an orange backpack strewn across her back.

“It’s a Strawberry Shortcake bag,” Aoife informed the Irish Voice/IrishCentral as she waved at a little boy she recognized across the yard. 

Aoife was excited to start school. She was looking forward to having more time with her friends in the playground and getting to know other kids.

“I will make new friends,” she said confidently.

Thinking about the academic side of school, Aoife said she was going to be learning “letters” on her first day at school.

While Aoife’s baby sister Maeve was at home eating Cheerios, the oldest Birdy child wasn’t fazed by the amount of traffic coming into the schoolyard. As long as she could see her friends, she wasn’t bothered.

Aoife’s friend Ava arrived through the school gates moments after and she was elated.

“Hi,” Aoife smiled from ear to ear as she welcomed her friend Ava to her new school.

Ava, 4, was accompanied on her first day of kindergarten by her mommy Fidelma and her daddy Fergal Byrne, her older brother Dylan, 6, her brother Shane, 3, and her little sister Jenna, 21 months.

This is Ava’s second year at the Yonkers Montessori Academy. Last year she was a pupil in the pre-kindergarten class. 

Fidelma, who hails from County Louth, and Shane, from County Monaghan, were excited to see Ava back to school. Unfortunately, Ava didn’t share her parents’ enthusiasm.

She said she wanted to “stay at home” instead to going to school. As Ava clung on to her sister Jenna’s stroller, she made sure her mommy wasn’t far from her side.

Older brother Dylan, who was ready for the challenge of second grade on Tuesday, said he would make it his business to look out for his little sister at school. But in the meantime he would be busy getting to know his new teacher, catching up with his school friends and doing his favorite thing, “art.”

Ava did admit the one thing she was looking forward about school was “playing outside” with her friends. And she promised her mom she would “help” all the new pre-kindergarten children settle into school life this year.

The Devaney family was also getting ready to send the last of their four girls to school on Tuesday.

Siobhan and Vincent Devaney from County Dublin, now living in Yonkers, had four uniforms to press and four lunch boxes to pack on Monday night.

Kate, 9, Lilly, 7, Aine, 5, and their youngest, Sinead, 4, stuck together on Tuesday as they prepared to go up the steps and through the large doors of the Montessori school.

It was Sinead’s first day. She was very excited to meet her teacher, Ms. Costa.

Sinead was hoping Ms. Costa will teach her to read like her big sisters. She was looking forward to her first day.

“Today we will paint I think and I will meet lots of new friends,” she said happily.

Big sister Kate, who was getting ready for fourth grade, promised to look out for her youngest sibling at school, just like she has looked out for Lilly and Aine in the past.

And when not looking out for her siblings, Kate said she was excited to get back to learning mathematics, her favorite subject.

Math, however, was far from Lilly’s mind.

“I love reading,” shared Lilly.

And her little sister, Aine, prefers writing.

As the girls huddled together the excitement began to show on their faces, and proud Siobhan was there to document it all on camera.

For best friends Jack Rooney and Jack Deere, Tuesday couldn’t have come any quicker. Rooney, 5, and Deere, 4, have been best friends since they were born, and both of them were about to begin the venture of kindergarten together.

Unfortunately, while waiting for the doors to open, it was unclear if the boys would be in the same class, but nevertheless it was obvious by their camaraderie that meeting in the playground on a daily basis was high on their agenda.

Jack Rooney, son of Siobhan from County Clare and Mike Rooney, from County Galway, was all smiles as he let go his mother’s hand, much to her heartbreak, to run around with Jack Deere and his new friends.

When asked if he was looking forward to his new adventure in school, Jack Rooney nodded and smiled big while saying “yes.”

Rooney, carrying a “Wall-E” movie school bag on his back, said he was not going to study math, but his favorite part about his new school was meeting new friends.

Jack Deere, son of Julia Hunt from England and Mick Deere from County Limerick, attended pre-kindergarten last year and was a little wiser on what goes on behind the big school doors. He promised he would help his best friend settle in and show him the ropes.

“Come on Jack,” urged little Deere as he hugged his friend tightly.

Together the boys found a space in between the hoards of parents and children to play before the bell rang.

At 8:30 a.m. on the dot the big school doors opened and one by one parents, several with tears in their eyes, let go of their babies. The children, some screeching with fear of the unknown, held on tightly to the hands and legs of their parents.

Ten minutes later the schoolyard was empty. The parents, handkerchiefs tucked away into their pockets, got into their cars and got on with their day.

The children settled into small school chairs in their new classrooms while beginning the journey into their education.

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