An Cosán development officer shares story of returning to education
Avril with daughter Dionne

An Cosán development officer shares story of returning to education

A DIGITAL learning and development officer in An Cosán in Jobstown has shared her story of returning to education after becoming a single mother when she was in her late teens.

Avril Hannifin, 37, who grew up in Wheatfield in Clondalkin, discovered on the day she received her Leaving Cert results that she was pregnant, so had to put her dream of going to college on hold.

Avril worked full-time until her daughter, Dionne, was born and being a mother became her primary focus – with the young woman being unsure if she would ever return to education.

“I got a CAO offer to learn about business, but destiny decided that instead I would be learning how to keep my baby alive and provide,” Avril told The Echo.

“I was very sick at the start and couldn’t think. When I was able, I got myself together, worked full-time, and did so up to two weeks before Dionne was born, as she arrived early.

“I thought at the time that was it – that my education was finished, I’d never go to college and to move on and get over it.”

Avril and Dionne outside An Cosán in Jobstown

As Avril watched her daughter grow, she still felt that desire to return to education, and when Dionne was nine months old, she took her initial steps back into education.

“As a part-time worker and teenager with a baby to care for, I knew I couldn’t go to college,” said Avril.

“Luckily, I was introduced to a Community Development Project when Dionne was nine months old.

“I started attending drop-in sessions.

There was a creche and a good atmosphere there and people in my situation.

“I was scared but I decided to try and return to education to give Dionne a better life and to get a good quality job.

“As a mother, you are torn between providing for your child and giving them the best and being there to care for them. I balanced as best as I could.

“The first course I did was Access Level 3 Personal Development.

“As I began to feel safe and less isolated, I continued all the way up to degree level.”

Avril’s journey through education included completing courses in An Cosán and being conferred with a degree in community development and leadership from IT Carlow.

The young mother also completed a paid apprenticeship in Goodbody Stockbrokers in Ballsbridge and secured a permanent position in An Cosán – which played a pivotal role in her education.

“I started off in An Cosán as a learner on the BA degree in community development and leadership in 2014 and progressed to employment in An Cosán as a digital pathways learning support worker in 2017,” said Avril.

“I was seconded to Goodbody Stockbrokers for a six-month apprenticeship as an IT engineer in 2018 and came back to An Cosán to implement the knowledge as IT support.”

Avril’s path through education and into employment has also inspired her daughter Dionne, who is now 18 and recently completed her Leaving Cert in Coláiste Bríde.

Last month, Dionne started her first year in a degree course in design, technology and innovation in TUDublin Blanchardstown, and said that seeing her mam’s achievements spurred her on.

“My mam’s return to education inspired me to always try my best,” she said.

“I remember when my mam graduated from IT Carlow.

“I was proud of her because I saw the amount of work that she put in. We met nice people, and my mam was happier.

“We had good times, and I could see that the more my mam was learning the better our lives got because our opportunities increased.”

Avril and Dionne spoke to The Echo this week to mark International Day of the Girl (Tuesday, October 11) which is celebrated to amplify the voices of and empower girls.

The theme for International Day of the Girl 2022 is ‘Our time is now – our rights, our future’, which resonates strongly with both women, who now live in Bawnogue.

“This theme means to be in solidarity with fellow girls, to be mindful of your rights and to seize the moment,” said Avril.

“Gender inequality still exists so it is a call to collective action.

“Young women can’t wait for other people to make the changes they will need.

“They need to set a good example, to be empowered to lead, to use their voices and claim their rights to build the future.” Dionne added:

“We have the chance to make changes for our rights and make a better society.

“We can work hard to invest in our future and be stronger for our future.

“In my course in design, technology and innovation, I look forward to being part of creating a better future.”

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