Gemma Treacy from Cloghran is a final year Multimedia student in DCU. After having her daughter at the age of 15, Gemma was determined to attend university and worked hard to secure her place in DCU. In this piece, she explains how DCU’s Access Programme has helped her to overcome some challenges she has faced on her educational journey so far.
“Going to college was not always something that I imagined I would do. Just after I completed my Junior Certificate at 15-years-old, I had a beautiful baby girl and I think my parents probably worried that I wouldn’t even finish school. After having my daughter though, I actually became more motivated to attend university.
Although I was more motivated, life was still challenging and it was hard for me to focus on my studies at times. My daughter was born with a serious heart condition. At four days old, she had a major operation and then remained in the Intensive Care Unit in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin for another 22 days. There were many difficulties after this but thankfully, she is thriving today and now only needs to return to hospital for a yearly check-up.
With a young baby at home, I was lucky to have the support of my mother and my partner who looked after her while I attended school to complete my Leaving Certificate. My favourite subjects were English and Art so when I discovered the BSc in Multimedia in DCU, it seemed like a perfect course for me. I have never been great at studying and although I tried my best for my Leaving Certificate, I didn’t get the full points I needed for my course. I had applied to DCU’s Access Programme however and I was shocked when I got a reduced points offer to do my degree.
Coming into college, I felt very self-conscious and worried others might think that people like me did not belong in university. However, I’ve grown a lot in confidence over the years and I guess that’s what the Access Programme is all about.
Whether it was the Access orientation days where I made friends, or having my Access Officer to talk to when I failed a module in second year, I have always felt supported by DCU.
The financial support of the Access Programme has also been hugely important in helping to cover my day-to-day college expenses. Unfortunately, my parents are unable to work so I have worked part-time for many years in Croke Park to help cover our costs as well. I’ve also benefited from work experience opportunities through the Access Programme, working as a student ambassador and doing a summer work placement through the Access to the Workplace Programme. My placement was with Irish Distillers this summer and it was a brilliant way to gain paid experience working in a marketing and advertising environment.
I am now in my final year in DCU and am very proud to have gotten his far. I used to doubt myself but I have built a lot of resilience and I am determined to finish my degree and to begin working next year. My daughter is now six years old and we still live together with my parents. Next year, my top priority is to get a good job after graduation so that we can save to get our own place where we can live together as a family with her dad.”