MEET THE TEAM AT IRISH GAP YEAR

Meet the Team

At Irish Gap Year, the focus is very much on working as a team. We foster this principle in our all our programs and it is no different in our own working lives in the company.

We love what we do and each others company!

Please let us introduce some of the main members of our team.

Ryan Allen Irish Gap Year

Ryan Allen

A founding member of Irish Gap Year, Ryan has been involved in outdoor education for the past 12 years and has worked in both management & delivery capacities 

extensively in America, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway. Ryan is an avid outdoor enthusiast, adventurer and musician and holds graduate degrees in both Literature and American Studies from The University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Having taught outdoor education on 3 continents Ryan has a huge amount of hands-on expertise working with youth and adult groups. Ryan has led several adventure-travel trips abroad and many trips in Ireland over the years and is passionate about creating inspiring and transformative experiences.

Ryan's role within Irish Gap Year is multi-faceted. He is the head of program creation and content, involved in many aspects of outdoor adventure delivery and is the main administrator. Ryan stays active in the community teaching and volunteering with many regional charities and youth groups.

In his free time, Ryan can often be found surfing the Donegal coast, hiking in the mountains, playing music in the pubs and working on Whitehill Eco Farm in Ballyshannon with his partner Fiona. 

Killian O’Kelly

Killian O'Kelly irish Gap Year

Killian is a founding member of Irish Gap Year. He is from the town of Bundoran in County Donegal, on the north-western seaboard of Ireland. After completing an honours degree in Construction Engineering from University of Ulster Jordanstown he worked with DELL Computers for a number of years.

However, his passion for outdoor sports and life on the west coast of Ireland brought him back home to set up an adventure tourism company with his wife Mary. Their company, TurfnSurf Tours have been providing adventure activities tours to tourists since 2006. His work has included providing activities and volunteer support to local community groups such as the Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP).

In recent years Killian has conducted and managed, government funded, educational courses for unemployed youth to train to become a Surf Instructors and Beach Lifeguards.

Killian has had a lifetime interest in water-sports and rescue services related to the sea. He has been a pool and beach lifeguard for many years and is currently a volunteer crew member of the Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat.

He grew up surfing in Bundoran and this sport has meant he has also travelled extensively. In particular Killian spent many summers living and working in Boston in the US. He has also lived and worked in New Zealand and travelled to countries such as China, Russia, Mongolia, Australia and throughout Europe.

Margie O’Reilly, Ph.D.

Margaret O'Reilly-Allen Irish Gap Year

Margie is a board member, academic advisor and head of our US offices at Irish Gap Year.  Margie holds a Ph.D. from Drexel University in Philadelphia and is a professor and program director at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. As an Irish Gap Year board member and head of our offices in the US, Margie is our Irish/American liaison and a major contributor to the Irish Gap Year course content. Margie delivers the communication & Soft Skills modules of the Transition Adventure Program. 

Known affectionately to her students as Doctor ‘O’, Margie has extensive experience in working with students and has awards for teaching and volunteering at the university. Over the past ten years, she has developed and led numerous student study tours to Ireland, Italy, Spain, the UK, the Czech Republic and Costa Rica. With over twenty years of experience in higher education, Margie is a passionate educator with a skill for developing curriculum that blends business, culture and fun.

Margie’s family is from county Cavan in Ireland and she grew up in the Philadelphia area and participated in the Philadelphia Cavan Society. Working with Irish Gap Year is a natural fit that combines her love of working with young people, travel, program design and spending time in Ireland.

Margie is an avid cyclist and can often be found on her bike touring the Delaware River routes, even on the coldest of winter days! She has cycled extensively in Europe and America, but enjoys her time in Ireland most of all. She also enjoys reading, swimming and spending time with her family.

Matthew Connolly

Internship Coordinator

Matthew hails from Kildare in Ireland’s ancient east. He had a keen interest in swimming and watersports from an early age and to further his interests in the outdoors he joined the scouts where he acquired bushcraft skills and developed a passion for camping and hiking.

Since leaving secondary school Matthew has obtained a wide variety of practical skills both in Ireland and abroad working in construction as an electrician and later as a plumber. While in Australia he also took to farm life working in various vineyards, orchards and fruit farms enjoying the rustic natural lifestyle.

After seeing the potential of outdoor education in building positive outcomes for a range of different groups Matthew returned to Ireland to complete a degree in Adventure Tourism Management where he also studied how positive community development can be gained from volunteerism. In the summers between studying, Matthew spent time as a climbing instructor working with groups young and old. Seeing the benefits of volunteer work over the years he has given his time to both international organisations and local community groups alike.

Now Matthew can be found surfing the rugged west Coast, mountain biking Ireland’s trails or hiking the island’s scenic mountains.

Sarah Berkery

Program Leader

Sarah (BA In Outdoor Education) is the newest member to our team and comes to us from a family of four sisters, from the land locked county of Tipperary, but she is the biggest tom boy and sea lover possible.

She has a huge interest in surfing, hurling, snowboarding, hiking, swimming, cliff jumping and more. She is passionate about everything outdoors and if she does have a bad day you simply just gotta put her in the sea!

She has gained valuable experience working with groups of all ages for the past few years working in various adventure centres along the west coast of Ireland as an outdoor instructor. Sarah has valued experience in volunteering over the years helping with Special Olympic events and most recently volunteering with Liquid Therapy and Foroige.

After college Sarah spent 2 years traveling around Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand & Vietnam exploring the different cultures, landscapes and adventure aspects before being pulled back to the west coast of Ireland.

Sarah’s energy and enthusiasm (she even bounces) always lift the spirits of a group even on the wettest grey days. Sarah believes in the outdoor philosophy of allowing the mind, time and space to breathe and develop in nature and also the importance of one challenging themselves and stepping outside their comfort zone for personal development.

Chris Fox

Program Leader

Chris (BA Honours in Music Technology) was born and raised in Bundoran.  Chris has had a keen interest in Music from an early age and can be found in his spare time playing music locally in Bundoran. 

Chris's other passion lies in the love of the outdoors and he has been working as an outdoor instructor for the last 4 years before joining our team at Irish Gap Year. Chris has a strong interest in other cultures and because of this is always soaking up new knowledge of culture and history to share with other.

Chris believes in life long learning and skill sharing when working with people. These beliefs and values transfer into his transformative and experiential teaching style when working with young people in the outdoors.

Chris's personal interests include surfing, kayaking, swimming, hiking and travelling. Chris is also a volunteer crew member with the Bundoran RNLI lifeboat station. Through his years as an instructor Chris has found it very rewarding to help someone discover a new skill or passion or even to help someone overcome a fear and he looks forward to joining the Irish Gap Year team.

Rita Magan

Rita Magan Irish Gap Year

Rita hails from Tullaghan, County Leitrim, born and reared. Rita is the Irish Gap Year ‘House Mom’ who we all turn to for advice, a laugh and a good hearty meal. Rita has been working in hospitality throughout her life.

She spent 27 years working in Page’s Café Bundoran whipping up all sorts of culinary delights to please the masses who flocked to Bundoran every summer.

We are thrilled to have her as part of our ever-expanding team. The students love Rita and her amazing cooking and in turn Rita loves the students and their eclectic taste combinations – Lasagne and Pancakes!

The students all call her their ‘Adoptive Granny’ or ‘Mom’. Along with a lifetime of culinary expertise Rita has reared 4 children of her own who now have to share her with our students. We hope they don’t mind!
 

 

 

Onora Gill-Fitch

Onóra manages the finances at Irish Gap Year. She has an excellent head for figures and but is also a very creative person. Although born in Dublin Onóra spent most of her childhood on the west coast of Ireland, moving to Drumcliffe in Sligo at the age of 8.

Living in such a picturesque spot the ocean definitely had a pull for her and she took to sailing in her early teens and swam at Streedagh beach most days rain, hail or shine.

After completing her studies in Art and Design in NCAD in Dublin Onóra moved to Brighton in the UK. While here she spent 7 years working as a ceramicist with Keneth Clarke Ceramics, working her way to becoming the director of the company. During this time Onóra also met the love of her life and now husband, Graham.

As she had always wanted to work with young people Onóra became an Art Technician at Eastborne College helping students who were studying art and design achieve their goals. Here she again worked quite a bit with ceramics but also got into fine art and model making.

When her two girls came along her longing to come home to Ireland got greater and greater so they packed up, sold their house to start a new life back in Ireland. 10 years later Onóra is living by the sea with her husband and now four kids, loving life and enjoying her role in Irish Gap Year.

 

         

Sammie O'Reilly

Irish Gap Year Program Leader Sammie O'Reilly

Sammie O’Reilly (M.Ed.) from Philadelphia Pa, has been a classroom teacher, climbing coach, physics tutor and a mentor to students from all over North America.

As an avid climber Sammie believes in applying the mental discipline and lessons learned through climbing to her mentoring and teaching roles with students.

Sammie joins Irish Gap Year as a program leader and educational consultant for the Transition Adventure Program in July and August.