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Christina Boland, MTU

Christina Boland, MTU

Christina Boland, Star Pupil Proramme, Supporting young travellers to stay in education, MTU, Kerry Campus

My name is Christina Boland  I am one of 9 children born into a Traveller family of hard workers with  very little education. My parents sent me to St. Oliver’s Primary School in Killarney, Co. Kerry  in those times we  left school in 6th class.  When I left school,  I was still   eager to learn to read and write properly  but life took over and I got married. I  now have two beautiful children who are married and one precious granddaughter.   I reared my children with the support of my family, but  I knew the only way they would have a  real future was  for me to go back to education and find work.  My family didn’t agree with me at the time and thought that  I needed to stay home and look after my children but I was determined to follow this through  I went to the  Travellers Education Centre in Killarney.   I found that every day was boring because 2 years later I was still reading the same books and  cooking the same queen cakes etc.  I asked  the  Training Centre if they could  introduce the Leaving Certificate.   Some students took  up this option  but I was afraid I would fail so I never applied.

I eventually  got a job in the Homework Club where my own children attended and it was here that I became  more aware  of  the lack of education in my community and this   inspired me to start working in education. I applied for a Community Employment  job and completed a computer course and later did a Community Development and Parenting course.    I then heard about the Munster Technological University (IT Tralee) were looking for someone to work with Travellers as a Traveller Access Officer,  so I applied and am still here today 10 years later. 

 I currently  work with  the Star Pupil Programme which supports and  encourages young Travellers to stay in school and complete  the Leaving Certificate.   I liaise with the schools to get the best supports in place  for each student in the subjects they struggle with. Part of the  Star Pupil programme is to find a summer work placement so that students  can see what it’s like to have a job and feel independent.  I also help them apply for  College courses and  support them  apply for grants, bursaries etc. Some students needed support  approaching  their  families to discuss  attending college. I am grateful to have helped many students who have attended  MTU but it is important to note that  it was their own dreams that made them become Chefs, Managers, Actor’s and Nurses etc.

 I have also been involved in organising  courses and training for adults in our community so that they can support their family through education. With the Covid 19 pandemic  life is hard for Traveller students with little support, who often have no private place to study and feel isolated.  Some have  no access to the internet so  keeping up to date  is much harder for them.   I try to encourage them to be proud of being a Traveller because hiding their identity is a big struggle in moving forward.

I want to thank the team of people I work with who support me every day and believe in  making education assessable  for all students, no matter what culture or back ground they come from. I stand proud today knowing that when no one believed in me that I believed in myself. I had to fight for my education and my children’s education and will continue to look  for what’s  best for all Traveller students in the education system. I know what it feels like to face discrimination but I also know that Travellers are strong people.  I will always be grateful to my parents who often told me to be nice to people and not to look down on someone who is struggling. If you are a Traveller  reading this today and feel like giving up just remember I was there and I’m so glad that my work has inspired people to put my name forward and this feels like a very proud moment to someone who thought no one believed in her.

#IWDResilience #ChooseToChallenge

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