The Discover University programme at National College of Ireland (NCI) brought more than 30 youngsters from inner city Dublin and from the capital’s migrant communities together over the past week. They worked on a variety of projects on the campus at the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) and also received an insight they might not otherwise be given into college life.
Deborah Somorin, a 16-year-old from Drumcondra, has lived in Dublin for seven years and her parents are from Nigeria.
“I decided I wanted to go to college when I was about three but I’ve learned loads about it all. I’d love to become a primary teacher but I might not get the points, but I’ve found out I could do a social science degree and maybe do a teaching degree after that,” said Deborah who will sit her Leaving Certificate next year.
“There’s a lot of people here from parts of Dublin where they would never have thought of going to college. But after this week, they’ve changed their minds because they’ve found out about their own skills and what they could do in third level,” she said.
Many of the students who took part are from the NCI’s local community in the Dublin docklands, as well as from Ballymun and the Liberties area of the inner city, while migrant participants are originally from a range of countries such as Iraq, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Programme co-ordinator Brigina Crowe said a key focus is on integration and helping young people to think about living and working in a multicultural society.
“Many students in the migrant group are quite ambitious and want to go to college but there is a view that information is hard to find about courses as the Irish education system is quite confusing for them,” she said.
The young people worked on projects focused on community living and becoming active citizens, with team leaders who are former participants in the Discover University programme as well as students from Duke University in North Carolina.
Sarah Barrett from Ballymun said the programme made college seem more fun, and among the many things she learned about was how to start a business.
NCI is one of several colleges setting aside degree places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds with lower Leaving Certificate points than other applicants in an effort to be more inclusive.
However, Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland said some institutions are still not doing enough to improve third level access for poorer students, mature students and people with disabilities.