Jason is a second year student, completing a BA in Religious Education and History at DCU. In this piece, he talks about his educational journey and the role of DCU’s Access Programme in helping him to pursue his dream of becoming a secondary school teacher.
Growing up, I was lucky to have a very close-knit and supportive family. My parents always emphasised the importance of having a proper education and choosing a career that you enjoy, but they didn’t force university on me or my sister. My father himself did an apprenticeship after finishing school and then studied in college at night for four years while working full-time.
In Transition Year, my parents encouraged me to get a range of different experiences to help me decide my future career path. One of these experiences was working in the factory where my dad works as a fitter. He arranged the most boring jobs he could think of like cleaning floors, packing boxes, counting screws and putting them into bags. After two months, he told me “You can do this for the rest of your life if you are happy doing these jobs, or you can go to college, get a good education and make a career out of something you enjoy doing.”
I always liked school and I was determined to progress to third level education. I had some challenges to overcome first though. When I was in 3rd class in primary school, a teacher noticed I was struggling with reading and writing, and I was diagnosed with the learning disability dyslexia.
I now feel really lucky that I was diagnosed early and that my school put a lot of supports and learning resources in place to help me. However, school was still very tough for me at times. I felt I had to work nearly twice as hard as others to achieve the same grades.
History was always one of my favourite subjects and so I decided to apply for my course to become a history teacher. I have had many inspirational teachers who have gone above and beyond throughout my life to help me reach my true potential. I thought teaching would enable me to give a little bit back and help other people in the same way in the future.
Unfortunately, my last year in school was quite difficult. My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was in first year of secondary school. His health was up and down over the years but in sixth year, he became very ill again. Thankfully, his health has improved but he is still experiencing ongoing health problems. After fighting and working so hard to keep up in school, I was disappointed with my Leaving Certificate results. I thought that my plans to become a teacher were shattered. So I couldn’t believe it when I received my offer through DCU’s Access Programme to study on the BA in Religious Education and History.
My family have always lived a very modest life – my dad’s job is not the most highly paid and with his illness, he sometimes has periods where he can’t work. We have always lived within our means and didn’t go past them. We didn’t have fancy foreign holidays growing up but we made the most of what we had. If I didn’t have my SUSI grant and my Access scholarship, I know my parents would have worked very hard to support me to go to college – but I also know it would have been a strain for them.
I’m extremely grateful for all of the supports that I have received through the Access Programme. The Access scholarship helps with my transport costs, college supplies and living expenses. Other things like the orientation programme also help students to settle into college life and the tuition provided by older peers has supported me in my studies.
My Access Officer has also helped me to find supports for my dyslexia and I have availed of some brilliant technology through DCU like Grammarly and Claroread software, which have been a great help with my assignments and academic research.
Thanks to the Access Programme, I’m in university doing my dream course and the future is looking bright. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the supporters of DCU’s Access Programme. Their generosity goes a long way. I think it is brilliant that there are people out there who understand that some people may be less fortunate than others, but when they are given the right resources and support they can achieve amazing things. The opportunity that Access programme donors are giving to Access students is amazing and life changing.