Representing New York in this year’s Mary from Dungloe competition in Donegal.  Works as a speech language pathologist.

Tell us about your Irish heritage.

“I am first generation Irish American.  My mother, one in a family of 14, is from Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone and my father, one in a family of 10, is from Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh. Coincidentally, I am an only child from Woodside, Queens.  I have been lucky enough to travel to Ireland every summer and spend time with my family, make lifelong friendships and embrace my culture.”
How did you get involved in the Mary from Dungloe competition?
“Two of my best friends were helping Ann Marie McCullagh to organize the gala dance. They told me about the contest and encouraged me to participate. I thought it sounded great and I am so glad I became involved.”
What does the contest involve?

“Mary from Dungloe is an international week-long festival that has a large range of events and activities for people of all ages. Girls from different parts of Ireland and the world participate in a beauty competition that has a large focus on personality, drive and a sense of community.
“There is an individual interview, an onstage interview, and a talent portion to the competition. In addition, the girls participate in many of the activities throughout the week so that both the community and the judges can attain greater insight into the girls’ characters and personalities.”
You work as a certified speech language pathologist. What do you like about your job?
“I love the kids. They challenge and inspire me every day to be both silly and serious. I try to make speech and language fun and target goals through games and activities. I love that you can help a child express himself, which in turn decreases frustration and increases self-esteem. I also love the funny things the kids say every single day.”
You are involved in volunteering. Tell us about what you do.
“I have volunteered in a classroom of children with special needs by providing additional instruction and assistance. I have also helped in the fundraising office of the Ronald McDonald House. I love this organization because they provide accommodation to the parents of sick children directly next to the hospital.
“This year I plan to volunteer through an organization called New York Cares. They organize citywide days of service, where people come together for a day to focus on improving certain aspects of the community such as the schools and libraries.”
What is your favorite thing about visiting Ireland?

“The chipper! Seeing my family is a close second. But in all seriousness, Ireland has given me so many great memories. Most importantly, my time spent in Ireland fostered the strong relationships I have today with my family and friends.”

Interview by Molly Muldoon

Stephanie Burke