A graduate of North West Regional College (NWRC) has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2019 British Education Awards.
Aine McFadden, who studied for a Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies at NWRC, was singled out as a finalist in recognition of her “brilliant academic results and extracurricular success within the Vocational category”.
She will now go on to the awards ceremony on Thursday 31st January in Manchester where young people, their families and educators, along with politicians, professionals and celebrities come together to celebrate educational attainment.
Aine, who was nominated for the award by her NWRC Early Years Lecturer Ann Tracey, is part of a group who recently created a virtual video map of Derry’s City’s Walls for wheelchair users.
And in September she was recognised by Junior Chamber International as an “Outstanding Young Person”.
Aine, who now works for the Tuned in Project in Derry as a team leader, said she was overwhelmed and thrilled to be shortlisted as a finalist:
“When Ann told me she had nominated me it felt like such an honour,” she said.
“I’ve stayed in touch with Ann even though I have now completed my studies at NWRC. Ann has been so supportive.
“I’m really thankful that she thought of me for this. Ann has been so supportive throughout my time in college and since I finished my course.
“I’m still in touch with my lecturers and tutors at NWRC who are so approachable and down to earth. It is a really good learning environment because you are not afraid to ask questions.”
Aine first studied the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Early Years (equivalent to 3 A Levels) at NWRC and returned to the Strand Road Campus to complete the Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies.
“The Foundation Degree was perfect for me,” said Aine. “I wanted to continue to study but I didn’t want to move away.
“It was more accessible to me than going to university and it was a great stepping stone to going on to get a full degree.”
After completing her studies Aine went on to work in Ardnashee College and is currently working with the Tuned In Project.
She explained the work she is doing there: “At Tuned In I am working with a range of young people and adults with a range of disabilities. A lot of the work we do is through Creative Media and the Arts and we decided to embark on a video project looking at how accessible the city is for people who have a physical disability.
“The City’s Walls were a great place to start because they are so famous. It also tied in well with our students who are from the town. I suppose when you live here, you don’t think too much about tourist attractions and other places you see on a daily basis. The Walls have always been here and you don’t always consider whether they are accessible to everyone. The Tuned In project also thought about visitors to the city and the questions they have when they visit the historic walls. They may not always know what to expect.
“It started to go a bit further then, and we considered more than the physical disability. We thought about people with Autism and how they may be frightened of new spaces. However, our video project would allow people to take a look at the space before they come up to the Walls.”
The project is currently online and Aine and the group are researching turning the project into an app.
“We want it to be really user-friendly,” explained Aine, “so anyone can access it with little or no help. It’s been such a worthwhile project and we are really excited about it.
“I’m really delighted that we’ve been able to highlight the work of the project through my nomination. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me getting this far, especially Project Manager at Tuned In, Phil Conn.”
Ann Tracey, Lecturer at NWRC said: “I am thrilled that Aine has been recognised by the British Education Awards. I can think of no-one more deserving.
“I put Aine forward for the award because of her contribution working with young people with special needs. Working as a Team Leader at Tuned In, Aine supports young people with special needs and a variety of disabilities.
“Aine was inspired to work in special needs when her nephew was diagnosed with autism and I know she plays a very active role in supporting him. For the past five years, she has also been providing respite care for a young person with autism and considers him a part of the family.
“It’s clear that Aine loves her work with Tuned In as she talks about it with such passion and animation. She is a funny, vivacious and passionate young woman who brings much joy and laughter not only to her work but also to her peers and tutors at NWRC.
She has a wonderful understanding of the needs of the young people she works with and I can only imagine how much happiness she brings to the lives of these people and their families.
“I wish her the best of luck on Thursday night.”
The BEA awards will take place at the Hilton Manchester on Thursday, January 31.
NWRC offers a range of courses in Early Years.
For more information, you can attend NWRC’s Open Days which run on February 26, 27 and 28 in Strabane, Derry and Limavady respectively.
There will also be a Saturday Open Day in Strand Road Campus on March 2.