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