'I got a second chance at life': Breast cancer survivor who left school at 17 graduates from Trinity

A breast cancer survivor, who became a mother shortly after leaving school at the age of 17 without sitting her Leaving Cert, believes that a return to education changed her life.

Dublin mother, Mary Geraghty, returned to education as a mature student three years after she was initially diagnosed with cancer.

"Although my cancer treatment was very difficult I was lucky enough to be given a very good prognosis," Ms Geraghty says.

“I felt like I had been given a second chance at life. Something inside of me began to shift and I knew I wanted to change my life."

After completing a QQI level four course, she was accepted onto the Trinity Access Programmes foundation course for higher education: "I have just recently received an overall distinction for the course."

"Growing up I always struggled in school. I never identified as being intelligent or bright and as a result, my academic confidence was continuously quite low.

"The course has changed my life, it has given me belief in myself and for the first time in my life I have confidence in my academic ability.

My dream is to complete a degree in Social Studies at Trinity and become a social worker, so I can help vulnerable people in our society.

Ms Geraghty is among the 45 students who graduated from the Trinity Access Programmes Foundation Course at a ceremony held in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) this afternoon.

Aiming to tackle disadvantage by offering another way to third-level education, many of the students on the course were early school leavers or took part in outreach activities while in school.

Since the course began in 1997, 95% of graduates progressed to degree level studies, with 706 of these students progressing to degree courses in TCD.

This year, 44 of the 45 graduates have applied for third-level courses in Trinity under the facilitated entry route, with one student applying for a course in University College Dublin.

This year, a major access initiative based on the Trinity Foundation Course is also to be rolled out at Oxford University.

Up to 50 places will be offered to disadvantaged young adults by 2023 at the prestigious university, under a new initiative called Foundation Oxford.

Trinity Access co-director, Dr Cliona Hannon, said: “Trinity Access Foundation Course students have been the pioneers of educational change in Trinity College Dublin for over 20 years."

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