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RehabCare Students Sample University Life

29/07/2014 RehabCare Students Sample University Life

Taking a course at college might be seen as a normal goal for young people, but entering the university gates and joining fellow students in a lecture hall is something that others can only dream of. For four young South Dubliners with physical and sensory disabilities, the dream of doing a college course came true earlier this year when they all took courses in University College Dublin (UCD). Each of them joined mainstream courses and studied an area of personal interest to them. Today they returned to UCD for a special ceremony where they were presented with certificates of participation.

Luke Sterling, Aoife Hurley, Lisa Boylan and April Bryan all attend RehabCare’s New Horizons service in Stillorgan – an educational and recreational centre which caters for school leavers with physical and sensory disabilities. New Horizons recognises the social and educational value in young adults accessing mainstream community education resources. As school leavers, the people who use the service had highlight to staff that they would like to experience what college life was like. However their lack of a second level qualification proved to be a barrier for their access to third level education.

Reuben Jayawardene, Programme Facilitator, RehabCare’s New Horizons service explains how they were able to support people into education. “We created links with UCD with a view to providing educational resources in a university setting for the people who use our service. UCD provided us with a wide catalogue of open learning courses. These courses, which lasted eight weeks, were affordable, and provided the full college experience while costing only a small fraction of a full-time degree course. Each of the four young people involved selected the course which suited their personal interests and allowed them to further their knowledge of their chosen topic. The staff then drew up individual programmes for them so that we could support their learning.”

Students each took up varied areas of study: Luke Sterling studied The First World War 1914-1918 while Aoife Hurley’s interest lay in Dublin: One City One Book. Lisa Boylan turned her attention to Art Appreciation: An Introduction and April Bryan got an Introduction to Psychology.

Speaking at the ceremony in UCD Luke Sterling from Bray said, “It was very interesting. It was a great learning curve between what I was used to and third level” and Aoife Hurley from Arklow said “I really enjoyed the experience of going to college, and now graduating, like my sister Helen.”
Lisa Boylan from Ballybrack said “I loved doing the course and meeting the people, it was a great experience for me” while April Bryan from Dalkey said “I enjoyed it so much. I am going to go back and do more study.”

Dr Suzanne Guerin, Director of the UCD Centre for Disability Studies, which is based in the UCD School of Psychology said “We are delighted to welcome and celebrate with the students and their families. It is important that continuing education is widely accessible to students from all backgrounds and that students with disabilities are supported to experience college life.”

This was the first time that RehabCare’s New Horizons has partnered with a university to support people who use its services to access third level education. It is hoped that the success of this project will lead to more education opportunities for people with physical and sensory disabilities.

Check out pictures from the day here.

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