Dundalk Institute of Technology were absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted in conjunction with Louth LEADER Partnership for an AONTAS STAR 2022 Award. AONTAS is an organisation whose core mission is to support and transform lives through adult learning and their Annual Awards are a celebration of this objective. DkIT were shortlisted for both their Pathways & Headstart Programmes that are a collaboration between Dundalk Institute of Technology and Louth LEADER Partnership through funding received under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP). The programme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and administered by the Louth Local Community Development Committee. The programme’s aim is to provide access routes into Third Level Education for groups that have previously struggled to gain entry or assistance to Higher Education.
Johdi Quinn (DkIT Pathways & Headstart Co-ordinator and Community Development and Spanish Lecturer) said: ‘The biggest impact for me is that learners who are now studying at DkIT are telling me that going to college was beyond their wildest dreams before they did Pathways and Headstart. We have reached people and communities who have always thought that education wasn’t for them. But it’s not just about people returning to education. I believe it has given people confidence, resilience, the courage to dream again and more than anything, hope’.
These supportive courses have run for the last 5 years and offer a clearly defined route starting with a 14-week Third-Level taster programme which includes 3 modules from DkIT; Psychology, Community Development and Creative Media. The Pathways Programme is delivered on an outreach basis in participants’ own community venues. It is intended for community members to build their confidence and get a feeling of what college would be like in a safe and non-intimidating space. The follow-on programme, Headstart, is aimed at those with an interest in pursuing Higher Education and comprises of a 9- week exploration of study skills, including, academic writing, presentation skills, group work, time management, learning to learn, career guidance and assignment feedback.”
Maeve Harkin (Social Inclusion Manager with Louth LEADER Partnership’s SICAP Programme) said: ‘Our collaborative Back to Education access courses with DkIT have supported people living in socially disadvantaged communities, unemployed people, one-parent families, ethnic minorities, refugees and asylum seekers, people with disabilities, people with mental health issues and people on low incomes. The focus and mission of these programmes is to build self-confidence and remove as many obstacles as possible to allow access to life changing education for all’
The number of Pathways graduates over the 5-year life span has totalled 142 and to date we are delighted to report that 58 people have graduated from the Headstart Programme. DkIT are thrilled that Headstart graduates are in all 4 years of their DkIT Degrees including programmes such as Social Care, Community Youth Work, Arts, Audio & Music Production, Creative Media, Hospitality Management, General Nursing and Mental Health Nursing. Many graduates have also secured employment because of having completed both programmes.