How we’ve helped

Robert O’Gorman

  • From: Ballinacurra Weston, Limerick
  • Joined our 3rd level programme: 2013
  • College: LIT
  • Course: Multimedia Programming and Design, L.I.T.

Without Engage, it would
have been a lot easier to quit.
With them, it’s easier to finish.

“Growing up, higher education wouldn’t have been a focus in my family or neighbourhood. It was more important to get a trade and get a job. I’m the first person in my family to go to college. Although I would say I’m supported, I’m not sure if they quite understand why it’s important, either to me or my future.

I joined Engage when I went into my first year at LIT. I’m now in my final year of level 8 Multimedia Programming and Design. I enjoy going to the meetings—it’s good to meet up with friends who are not in my course or who I don’t get the time to see in college. Pat’s a great character and a great motivator. He’s a good talker, and I appreciate the talks he gives at the meetings.

My experience with education so far has been positive, although this year, as expected, is very tough. I have had thoughts of throwing in the towel, but knowing that Pat and Mary would have to put on file that a member dropped out wasn’t something I wanted. I just had to keep telling myself ‘one more year’.

The grant is important, of course, but the bigger value of Engage is the support it provides. I feel accepted and encouraged, and I get to meet other people from a similar background with similar experiences. Without Engage, it would have been a lot easier to quit. With them, it’s easier to finish.”

Lisa Roche

  • From: Moyross,Limerick
  • Joined our 3rd level programme: 2012
  • College: LIT
  • Course: Social Care

I’m proud of where I come
from and proud I’ve made
it through college

“Growing up I never had any intention of going to college. It just never crossed my mind. But after my mam had my little sister eight years ago, I decided to go because I wanted to show her that no matter where you come from, you can do whatever you set your mind to.

I didn’t have the points on my leaving cert, but I had the determination. I did a PLC and got into Limerick Institute of Technology. When I finish in May, with an Honours degree, I will be the first from my family to graduate from college.

One of my sisters is now studying at LIT, and my brother is doing a PLC to get into LIT. For my 8-year-old sister, college is a given. She wants to be a teacher.

Going against the tide and attending college was hard at the beginning, but with the support from college, my family and Engage, I’ve finally made the last hurdle at LIT. I am proud that I now have a brother and sister following on behind me in college, both bettering themselves and opening up their own opportunities.

Being labelled as ‘disadvantaged’ has its weaknesses, but it also has its strengths. I for one am proud of where I come from, and I’ll be proud when I’m holding my degree in May.”

Rachel Mescall-Fitzpatrick

  • From: Carew Park, Southill, Limerick
  • Joined our 3rd level programme: 1991
  • College: University College Cork, graduated in 1995
  • Career: Customer Service Manager & Nutritional Advisor, Carambola

Going to college
changed my world

“Although the idea of pursuing third-level education wasn’t common where I grew up, I always knew I was going to college. The course I wanted was in Cork, and my parents didn’t know how they could support me financially if I went away. Luckily, a neighbour told me about Engage, which was just starting at that time.

The Engage grant made all the difference for me. And the talks Pat gave about motivation and figuring out college life were tremendous support, especially when I was starting out. It was my first time away from home, and Engage helped me stay connected and not feel like I was on my own.

I believe this programme is about value and valuing individuals. For a lot of us in Engage, there wasn’t a clear path to college. There wasn’t understanding of why it’s important or any encouragement and support. Pat and Mary and everyone in Engage care and genuinely want to help all of us succeed.

Engage made a big difference in my life and career, and I’m so proud to see it helping other young people change their lives. I’m now the Customer Service Manager and Nutritional Advisor for Carambola, which delivers 24,000 lunches to 200 disadvantaged schools all over Ireland. I’m glad to be a part of making a difference for these students, because I know the difference support and encouragement made in my life.”

Brian Aherne

  • From: Moyross, Limerick
  • Joined our 3rd level programme: 2014
  • College: LIT
  • Course: Electronic Engineering

They helped me realise that
the future I want for my
daughter and myself is possible.

“When I was younger, education just wasn’t valued. I never had the opportunity to finish my second-level education mostly because of economic circumstances.

When the recession hit, like a lot of people, I became unemployed. I worked in the building sector, and it was very difficult for me to find other employment. So, I put myself into VTOS (vocational training opportunity scheme) to get my leaving certificate, and from there I decided to go on to third level.

At my local community office, I was told about the different grants available to help alleviate the financial burden of third-level programmes and of the invaluable service of the Engage and how to apply.

Putting myself through the education system as an adult was difficult at the beginning, with other adults ridiculing me and questioning my attempt to further my career. But going to the Engage group meetings with Pat and Mary, and listening to their talks about inspiration, self-worth, time management, study tactics and other helpful topics made a big difference. They helped me realise that the future I want for my daughter and myself is possible.

Now I am well on my way to getting my degree in engineering and securing full-time employment that I can be excited about and proud of. My ambition is to get into research and development, as I believe we can all do better tomorrow than what we do today, and I would like to be part of that evolution.”