Pupils, parents and educationalists have visited the University of Ulster's Jordanstown campus to hear details of an innovative outreach project designed topromote university education to young people who currently attend special schools in Northern Ireland.
Called Inspire To Aspire, the project's aims are
– to encourage young people from special schools to consider and aspire to University
– to introduce the young people to students and graduates
– to provide information for advocates – parents and professionals
– to support parents and provide the opportunity to find out more
– to build links between the University and the schools in the ‘special’ Sector
– to present university as an option for transition for pupils with complex physical disability.
Attendees heardinspirationalstories of achievement from current students and graduates of the University of Ulster whose disabilities have been no barrier to academic success.
Helen Savage, who graduated in June 2012 after studying for a degree in Social Policy at the University of Ulster, said: “For many people with a physical disability, the idea of a university education is not something talked about in their home. But I want to show them that it is possible: that with a lot of hard work and determination, they can achieve a university education."
Helen said she would recommend university to other people with disabilities: “I have always dreamed about going to university. That’s all I ever wanted to do! I want to tell people that they can go to university with a disability: it can be achieved.”
Opening the event, Professor Anne Moran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Educational Partnerships and International Affairs,said:
“Disability issues form a core part of our commitment to widening access to university.
“We want to encourage young people with physical disabilities to see that a university education is a realistic aspiration for them. We also want to provide information for those young people’s parents and advocates about university life and opportunities, and the many ways the University of Ulster can support disabled students as they pursue their academic studies.
“The University of Ulster works closely with schools before students come to university, and gives them advice and support to help ease the transition from school life to the university environment.
“We are a welcoming environment and wish to encourage disabled students with any form of disability to consider studying with us. We have staff dedicated to support students with disabilities.
"It’s our hope that as aresultof this and other events of its kind, that more disabled young people will beInspired to Aspireto higher education.“
Careers Teacher Sharon Hopps, from Fleming Fulton School, said: "It certainly opened our eyes to the university experience."
Inspire To Aspire 1 (top):Workshop at the Inspire to Aspire event, at Jordanstown Campus.
Inspire to Aspire 2:Inspire to Aspire, Jordanstown Campus, front row (from left,) Michaela Hollywood, Jean Daly, Stefan Hughes, Suzanne Glover, back row (from left), Nicola Sell, Professor Anne Moran, and Helen Savage.