Ulster University success for ‘exemplary’ student with learning disability

A talented Derry man has told how his learning disability did not stop him from achieving a 2:1 Bachelor of Science degree in Cinematic Arts, which he celebrated this week with his family.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 10:36 am
Having a learning disability did not stop Ulster University student Eoin Kenny, 30, from Derry from achieving a 2:1 Bachelor of Science Degree in Cinematic Arts. Eoin was initially supported by the Mencap NI Employment Service in 2013 to gain work experience, attend the North West Regional College and then to apply to University.

Eoin Kenny, 30, left Secondary School with two GCSEs, but this week celebrated his university success with family. He was initially supported by the Mencap NI Employment Service in Derry in 2013 to gain work experience, and help build his confidence to attend the North West Regional College. Mencap later encouraged and supported Eoin with his application to the Ulster University.

Eoin Kenny, BSc said: “To get a 2:1 in my degree has been amazing, I knew if I just kept at it and worked really hard over the years that I would eventually achieve anything I wanted. I am very happy with the results because I worked hard, got good grades and did so well. My family helped me all the way, supporting me and helping me make sure I had my work completed on-time and that I did my very best. The support that Mencap NI gave me in the early days to get work experience and then to go to college started my journey and I am so grateful to them, they are passionate and care about the people they support. I also want to thank my tutors and the disability support officers at the North West Regional College and the Ulster University, whose support was incredible, thank you.”

When Eoin started as a trainee with the Mencap NI Employment Service, he struggled with communication and expressing himself. Work experience at a signage company started his interest in design and media studies, leading to his entrance back into education.

. Eoin celebrates his degree with Amanda Moore, Mencap NI Employment Officer (left), his dad Pat Kenny and Dr Victoria McCollum (right), Lecturer in Cinematic Arts, Ulster University.

Amanda Moore, Mencap NI Employment Officer said: “I started working with and supporting Eoin eight years ago, developing his confidence and communication skills. I always knew he would achieve what he wanted. I am immensely proud today to see Eoin graduate from University.”

When Eoin was a small child, his family noticed that he was not reaching his developmental milestones and he was later diagnosed as having a learning disability.

Eoin’s father, Pat Kenny, said: “I was over the moon when Eoin got his results and the whole family are so proud of him. You can’t take on a task like this without having the right support every step of the way. Eoin and Amanda from Mencap worked really well together from the start and she has supported him every step of the way. If it was not for the support that Mencap provided at the start of his journey, Eoin would not have graduated from University.”

After two years applying to the Ulster University, Eoin was accepted into the BSc in Cinematic Arts at Magee Campus. Eoin’s tutor, Dr Victoria McCollum, Lecturer in Cinematic Arts, Ulster University said: “On the BSc Cinematic Arts programme at Magee, we work with many visual thinkers and gifted students with learning differences. We find that students like Eoin often see the world in a different way which sparks unique ideas and unique answers to creative problems. Throughout my career at Ulster, I’ve learned that students succeed at just about anything they’re genuinely enthusiastic about. Eoin has proven that continuous effort is the key to unlocking our potential. We are so proud of him. At Ulster, we embrace bold, exciting and different work from voices you might not have heard before.”

Eoin and his family want to show anyone with a learning disability and their families that anything is possible with the right approach.

Joanne Kenny, Eoin’s Mother said: “As Eoin’s story shows, it is important that we as a society embrace and foster intellectual diversity. “As Eoin’s journey through North West Regional College and the Ulster University highlights it is possible to achieve outstanding results when institutions provide a supportive educational opportunity. Eoin is very keen to be a shining example to other people with a learning disability, as well as their parents. Anything is possible with a holistic person led approach.”

Eoin attended the North West Regional College in 2014 to study a HND in Media Studies. Dr Danny Laverty, Head of Department, Science Technology and the Creative Industries at the North West Regional College (NWRC) said: “We are absolutely delighted that Eoin has progressed so well in his education and is graduating from the Ulster University at Magee with a 2:1 in Cinematic Arts. Eoin is a former college student who studied HND Media Studies at NWRC and this enabled him to articulate to university. Despite the unique challenges that Eoin faced, at NWRC he excelled, enjoying the practical project based learning integrated into the course and applying innovative technologies in a creative way. Eoin was an exemplary student and we wish him every success in the future.”

The Mencap NI Employment Service supports several hundred young people and adults with a learning disability across Northern Ireland to prepare for, find and keep a job. Gráinne Close, Director of Mencap NI said: “Congratulations to Eoin on his brilliant achievement and to everyone who has helped him on his way. I am delighted with the work of our Employment Service in their continued support of Eoin over the years. Having a learning disability does not mean that you cannot learn or achieve goals in life, it may take longer to learn and develop, but with the right support you can achieve what you want. Our mission at Mencap is to change the lives of people with a learning disability in a positive way and I feel that our work has had a positive effect on Eoin’s life.”