A former Northern Regional College student from Ballymoney has been awarded a prestigious J P McManus All Ireland Scholarship Award. Eighteen years old Sophie Calderwood, who studied Business and IT at the College’s Trostan Avenue campus in Ballymena, is one of only six students from across Northern Ireland to receive a scholarship this year. She is now in her first year of a British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreting degree at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh.
The JP McManus All Ireland Scholarship Awards were established in 2008 to give gifted young students extra financial support. For the duration of their undergraduate programme, award winners will each receive £5,500 a year towards their university fees and other expenses.
Sophie said she was delighted but very surprised to get an award.
“I couldn’t believe it at first. When I was speaking to my mum on the phone, she said a letter had arrived for me but it wasn’t until I actually saw it in writing that it really started to sink in. The award is going to be a great help. My degree is a four year programme so it’s amazing to get this sort of financial support.”
Now well settled into first year of the BSL degree course, Sophie admitted that it was a chance encounter that set her on her current career path.
“When I’d a part-time job in a local department store, I’d to deal with two customers who were both deaf. I felt so bad that I couldn’t help them properly that I decided to learn the sign language alphabet to give me a better chance of communicating if a similar situation was ever to arise again.
“This really sparked my interest in sign language and I went on to do a night class at the College to get my Level 1 diploma in sign language. This got me hooked and I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.”
Offering her congratulations, Roisin McAlinden, course co-ordinator of the Business and IT programme said Sophie’s lecturers at Northern Regional College are all delighted with her success.
“Sophie is a lovely girl, very hardworking and diligent and a very worthy recipient of this prestigious award. I know she will be a great ambassador for both the Northern Regional College and PJ Mc Manus Scholarship programme throughout her future career. Receiving the scholarship will give her the opportunity to commit herself fully to university life, without worrying about money.”
Herriot Watt University is the only university in the UK to allow students to graduate as fully qualified and accredited BSL/English interpreters so the degree offers great employment prospects for successful students.