Kathleen Lawrence is the first ever member of the Traveller community to earn a place on the Washington Ireland Program.

Kathleen Lawrence never dreamed when she left school at 15 that she would one day end up ­working on Capitol Hill in the States.

But the 31-year-old is blazing a trail as the first Traveller to earn a place on the prestigious Washington Ireland Program.

Her achievements are all the more remarkable given that she suffered discrimination from a young age and was never encouraged to achieve academically.

She recalled: “When I was in school, I was given a ­colouring book and told I didn’t need to learn Irish.”

It wasn’t until she started ­working with Traveller rights ­organisation Pavee Point that she began thinking about third-level education.

However, the decision to enrol in university wasn’t an easy one, as she explained: “It was out of my comfort zone because it is not the norm in the Traveller community. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Kathleen claimed: “Along with that, I received a lot of discrimination in school from both teachers and students so it was not something that I necessarily wanted to expose myself to again.”

She added: “It was an adjustment for me as I started spending most of my day in full-time education around settled people — the people I was most wary of.

“My family also found it hard to adjust because they were worried about me and what university would mean.

“Further, I am the first person in my entire extended family, to my knowledge, who has gone on to third-level education so that in itself was strange.

“My family have been so supportive since I went to university and that has meant a lot.”

Kathleen, from Swords, north Dublin, has just completed a degree in Law and Sociology at NUI Maynooth.

And she’s enjoying the experience of a lifetime in Washington, working in the corridors of power as an intern with Congressman Brendan Boyle.

By Aoife Finneran, The Irish Sun
20th July 2017, 7:58 am