Lauren Ormsby is a third year student at DCU studying Early Childhood Education. In this piece, Lauren describes how the DCU Access UFirst programme supported her on her journey to third level education and why she decided to become an Access Ambassador.
“My mam has always been a big advocate for myself and my younger brother to pursue third level education. Growing up in Ballymun, she knew we wouldn’t receive the same opportunities as other children from more privileged areas, and so she really pushed us to work hard at school and seek out opportunities for ourselves.
At my secondary school, Trinity Comprehensive, going to university wasn’t really discussed among my peers and teachers, as the focus was more on PLC’s and one year courses. I would say about 90% of my school year went straight into work after leaving secondary school, but I had my mind set on going to university thanks to my mam’s encouragement.
In fifth year, I began the UFirst outreach programme, which is a branch of the DCU Access Programme for secondary school students looking to pursue third level education. Myself and three others from my year attended workshops on the DCU Glasnevin Campus once a month throughout fifth and sixth year where we learned about college life, different courses at DCU and the access routes to getting into college.
Although my mam was a great support, she didn’t have the answers about going to college as she had never been herself, and neither had anyone else in my immediate family. I always had my mind set on working with children with disabilities, but it wasn’t until I started the UFirst programme that I realised I could complete a Level 8 in this space instead of just a PLC course. The UFirst programme was such an eye opener to the possibilities of going to college and how accessible DCU was to people from any and every background.
I was accepted into Early Childhood Education at DCU and I’m now in my third year of my course. The Access Programme has been such a huge support in helping me get to college and supporting me while in college. My mam can’t work due to health problems, so my dad is the main provider at home for all four of us. Having the financial support from the Access Programme has really taken the financial burden of going to college off of my family.
Beyond the financial support, my Access Officer has made me aware of so many other supports, including the campus GP and mental health supports, that are offered to all DCU students. If I’m ever struggling with something, no matter how big or small it may be, my Access Officer’s door is always open.
When offered the opportunity to become an Access Ambassador, I jumped at the chance! I remember being in secondary school not knowing the first thing about going to college and even feeling intimated by the thought of going. Being part of the UFirst programme in secondary school was the main reason I’m a student at DCU today.”
“By going into secondary schools as an Access Ambassador and informing students about going to college, I feel like I’ve come full circle in this process. My younger brother is now in secondary school and also part of the UFirst programme, so I’m hoping my past experience and role as an Access Ambassador will help other students from disadvantaged areas to pursue their dreams of third level education.”