At a ceremony in the O’Reilly Hall, 94 new academic scholars were inducted into the Ad Astra Academy for the 2014 academic year. The scholars were welcomed into the Academy and will join the existing 61 academic, 22 elite sport and 11 performance arts scholars, amounting to a total number of 210.

To earn the Ad Astra award, candidates must score six A1s (or equivalent) in their Leaving Certificate or final state examination. Additionally, it is also available to a number of existing students who excel academically in their final year with at least a first class honours.

The area of Medicine drew the most novice Ad Astra scholars, totalling 11, while Engineering brought nine new candidates to the scholastic ranks.

Among the new scholars inducted were, David Hayes, Stephen Heffernan and Cathal Tobin O’Brien from CBS Clonmel, Donal Ó Catháin, Cathal Ó Dulacháin, and Conor de Paor from Colaiste Eoin in Dublin. While Sarah Egan, Jennifer Freeley and Romy Lynch from Mount Anville College in Dublin were also added.

Liceo A Pigafetta, a school located in Vicenza, Italy, earned two Academic Ad Astras, one in Agricultural Science (Eva Ziggiotto) and another in English and Drama (Carlotta Fanton).

Among the new Ad Astra elite recruits, nine sports are represented; including canoe/kayak, equestrian, handball, hockey, hurling, rowing, rugby, soccer and swimming.  Swimming contains five of the athlete scholars with paralympian gold medallist Darragh McDonald from Gorey Community School, who is currently studying Commerce, getting recognition. The performance arts attracted immense success also, with six scholars in music and five in drama.

The launch of the Ad Astra Academy in 2011 was an initiative designated to identify and nurture exceptional students internationally. The awards recognise the achievements of current students based on academic, sporting and performing arts.

Since its unveiling in 2011, 434 scholarships have been awarded, with 274 for academic accomplishment, 146 for sport feats and 41 in the performing arts. The entrants benefit from a scholarship, discipline specific supports, guidance and the opportunity to partake in development and liaising opportunities.

UCD President, Professor Andrew Deeks, announced at the awards ceremony, “Through the Ad Astra Academy, UCD aims to introduce our scholars to an array of opportunities designed to support their personal, academic and performance development.

“We set out to build skills, to encourage creative thinking and to foster a sense of society in these students so that not only do they achieve great things for themselves, but that they make a valuable contribution to the wider world.”