LIMERICK rugby legend Paul O’Connell has told 19 students who this week received scholarships at Limerick Institute of Technology that they need to be "selfish" to ensure they go on to reach their full potential in their studies and in life.
He made his comments as the scholarships were presented to students from Limerick and across the region through the Leaders@LIT programme which is supported by a number of local companies and individuals.
Established in 2014, the LIT scholarship scheme aims to alleviate the strain of financial difficulties experienced by targeted student cohorts, and so allow the recipients to concentrate fully on their education and finish their studies.
To date 70 students have benefited at a total cost of around €750,000.
“I think for all of the recipients now is your time to be selfish, it’s time to make the most of this scholarship and to work really really hard to achieve what you can,” said Paul, who is associated with one of the sponsors – Pinergy.
The rugby legend also paid tribute to all of the companies and individuals who have sponsored the scholarships.
“For me people who achieve as much as they can and who try to be really high achievers and who are successful in their careers and in their lives but who also have a big sense of community really important,” he said.
Addressing the recipients during a presentation ceremony at the Millennium Theatre, LIT President Vincent Cunnane said he expects them to take advantage of the opportunity which they have been given.
“The scholarship programme makes a meaningful difference to the lives of students who really need it. I am proud to work in LIT with its ethos of inclusiveness and track record of achievement. There are 70 people studying in LIT today who may not otherwise have been in Higher Education if not for these scholarships,” he said.
One of the recipients – fourth year student Nicole Dundon – revealed the scholarship will ensure that she will be the first person from her family to achieve a degree.
“It’s actually amazing how much the scholarship has helped me. I was the only one in my class in first year without the necessary materials, so I was falling behind and didn’t want to continue anymore, and then I was awarded the scholarship. Being able to set myself up and get my books and get on without the stress of worrying about money and focus on my studies was such a relief.
"I am in my fourth year now and I wouldn’t be here without being awarded the scholarship and I am so grateful,” said Nicole who is studying Law and Taxation.
Another scholarship recipient was mother-of-four Melissa Duggan who is studying Social Care Work.
“By me being here today I am demonstrating each morning to each of my children how important education is and to always follow what they want to do when they are older.
"When I was accepted for my scholarship I was so excited and I was in shock as I finally knew I could go to college full time and that my childcare costs could be covered and that I could stop stressing that little bit more and focus on my study my studies,” she said.
A number of bursaries were also presented on Monday.