Fourteen Irish Travellers have been recognised at a special ceremony in Galway after completing the NUIG Access Centre's first Educational Transition Project (ETP).
The Traveller students received certificates of completion at the University.
"My belief is that further and higher education is for everyone and our mission as a Department is to make sure that no-one is left behind," said Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar of NUI Galway, who presented the students with their certificates.
"This programme builds on NUI Galway’s values of ambition, creativity, impact, collaboration and integrity through a supportive student-centred approach that connected with students at a community level. It is wonderful to see these 14 students now taking their first steps towards third level education," Professor Ó Dochartaigh said.
The Educational Transition Project (ETP) for Traveller students was developed to build on current initiatives and work directly with community organisations in supporting members of the Traveller community to progress to higher education.
Dr Mary Surlis, Senior Manager NUI Galway Access Centre, said: "The Educational Transition Project is multi-disciplinary and is designed to support Traveller students to achieve their desired educational goals, whether they are school leavers or mature students.
"This programme represents an important intervention in ensuring Traveller students access higher education. The success of this year’s programme and the feedback we have received will enable us to develop the initiative further for next year."
The programme commenced in early June 2021 and was delivered online three days a week over five weeks, due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Owen Ward, Traveller and post graduate of NUI Galway, is Programme Co-ordinator at the Access Centre.
He said: "These students are inspirational role models. Despite the additional obstacles they faced as a result of the pandemic, they remained committed to completing the programme. The Access Centre will continue to support these students as they progress in education. This initiative further demonstrates NUI Galway’s commitment to widening the participation of Irish Travellers in third level education."
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, sent a video message to the students, saying: "This is your day and you should be very proud. We are very proud of you and all that you have achieved. I applaud you on reaching this major milestone."