An Alternative Qualification Route via Youthreach

Image of person who wrote the blog.
Richael Shiels.

For those young people for whom school doesn’t work out, our Further Education and Training (FET) Service provides an alternative route for gaining qualifications through the Youthreach programme, based in six centres across the county. In our first November blog, one of our former Letterkenny Youthreach students, Richael Shiels, tells us about her experience.

I came to Youthreach in 2017 after the pressure of the upcoming Leaving Cert exams became too much to the point of negatively impacting my mental health. I found out about the programme when a friend began talking about her plans to attend; I didn’t realise there was more than one option to get the qualifications I needed to further my education, so I began looking into it and after conversations with my Mum and Guidance Counsellors about my progression possibilities after attending Youthreach, I made the decision to start.

Although nervous to begin, I found the environment somewhat more comforting with the smaller class groups and the ability to have a better student/teacher relationship with the tutors there. Also, the aspect of not having a big exam at the end of the year really helped me to be more interested about learning without the pressure of trying to memorise everything and I always felt if I was stuck or confused about something that I could ask and get the assistance I needed easily.

In my opinion, Youthreach felt a little less formal than the secondary school I attended prior, which was great for me as I didn’t feel the added pressure to feel like I had to put on an act, and I could be a bit more relaxed and just be myself. The programme helped me feel more comfortable with myself as I was able to find my own group of friends who shared similarities with me which is something I never really had in previous schools.

Art piece.
Art piece by Richael.

It also helped me feel more confident in my abilities in art and I was able to explore this hobby in a few of the different classes I attended here such as Woodwork and Art and Crafts. Then, from talking with my Crafts teacher Denise, I was able to look into courses I could attend after Youthreach and was able to progress into an Art and Design Foundation course in the North West Regional College. After attending my course in NWRC, I applied for university courses all over the United Kingdom and from there I began interviews and tours of universities.

This was around the beginning of the pandemic and ultimately, I decided to take a year out before continuing my studies, deferring a place I had  received at a university in Wales. When it was time to decide whether I would attend in Wales or apply to other places, I chose to apply to a few different places, Norwich University of the Arts, being one of them. Here I got into a course on Games Art and Design but after the first year, I decided it wasn’t for me. I am currently taking some time to work and save as I am planning to reattend Norwich in September 2023 for their course in Animation.

Art piece - image of a face.
Art piece by Richael.

For those young people who are interested in joining the Youthreach programme or would just like to find out some more about it, complete this short web form and our staff will get back to you.