Oxford dreams: ‘Disadvantaged doesn’t have to mean a disadvantaged mindset’

TY schoolgirls from Mercy, Inchicore are crowdfunding a trip to Oxford University

Nicole Stephens, Stacey Torres, Katie Browne and Niamh Mc Guirk of Mercy Inchicore are dreaming of a school trip to Oxford

Nicole Stephens, Stacey Torres, Katie Browne and Niamh Mc Guirk of Mercy Inchicore are dreaming of a school trip to Oxford

 

We are a group of transition-year students from Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore in Dublin who have a dream. We are curious and strong-minded young women, with aspirations and ambitions. We collectively believe that nothing should hold us back if we have the will to think or dream it.

Our generation is told the sky is our limit and we have started to think beyond our own realities. These seeds were planted in us through College for Every Student (CFES), a new programme delivered by Trinity College Dublin. CFES “is committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of under-served youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to, and succeed in college”.

Two years ago we created a 21st-century learning space in our school, one that allowed us to develop collaborative and group-work skills. We surpassed all expectations of our first CFES leadership project. The question we asked ourselves was, what next? What could we do to make our next project have as much impact as the last?

Thinking outside the box we felt it was crucial to think beyond our immediate environment. If we believe we can go to colleges such as Trinity, why not further afield? Why not Oxford? We realised there are other third-level educational institutes and opportunities outside of our motherland and it seemed every girl in the class had their own reasons for wanting to go to Oxford.

Mercy on the Move

Access programme

We wanted to learn more about international educational programmes that might someday allow us to attend not only Oxford or Trinity, but any college we set our minds on. As a TAP (Trinity Access Programme) school we avail of many opportunities from Trinity. While we are very grateful for these opportunities, we hope to explore and experience our other choices surrounding further education and pathways to college. Some people are saying we only want to go to Oxford so we can get out of Ireland. There is some element of truth to that, we won’t deny that, but that is not our sole purpose of going to Oxford.

There is one very specific reason why we are looking across the water and that’s the story of women who went before us, the steamboat women. This story tells a tale of female Oxford students coming to Ireland to get the final part of their degree, as they were not allowed to sit the written exam in Oxford.

They made the journey to Trinity to fulfil that part of their degrees. We wish to add a chapter on to the story of the steamboat women’s journey and return to Oxford. As potential scientists, technicians, engineers, artists, mathematicians we, the future STEAM. women of Ireland plan to make journeys to Oxford and beyond.

We fully believe we will be able to make it to Oxford on our own if that is what we want to do. Since our involvement with Trinity College we have come to speak a language of possibility and hope. As Mercy girls we believe very much in the vision of our founder, who knew that education was key to the empowerment of young women, particularly in disadvantaged areas. A disadvantaged area does not have to mean a disadvantaged mindset or people. We are not looking for pity, we are looking for empowerment.

So what happens if we don’t make it? Will we be disappointed? Yes, but if anything we have come to know through CFES is that there is valuable learning in anything you try to succeed in. We have not failed; we have succeeded in finding out what didn’t work. We will simply use that knowledge to go forward and plan differently for next time.

If you would like anymore information on our “Mercy on the Move” project please visit us on Twitter @mercyinchicore#MercyOnTheMove or our gofundme page. https://www.gofundme.com/mercy-on-the-move-get-us-to-oxford

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