A young Donegal man is on his way to carving out a legal career after getting a second chance at education with Youthreach.
Pierce Butler, aged 23, is in his third year of a Law degree at LYIT.
He didn’t take the usual route to college, having left post-primary school in fourth year. Pierce’s path was through a programme called Youthreach provided through Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service, and it suited him perfectly.
The young Falcarragh man dealt with illness during post-primary school. It caused him to miss most of third year, and he struggled with having to repeat fourth year. He decided to leave school, but he didn’t really want his academic time to be over yet.
“I thought that was me, my education was over, until a friend suggested Youthreach.”
Youthreach is a free education, training and work experience programme for young people aged 16-20 years who have left school early. The course provides a weekly training allowance to support students on the full-time programme, with six centres across the county.
Pierce saw the programme as “someting to do” with the support of a weekly allowance. Soon after he started at the Gortahork centre, he learned it was an invaluable experience for learning and self-development.
“I’m really, really glad I did go to Youthreach, albeit at the start it was for trivial reasons, ultimately it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my young life,” he said.
Pierce, who has dyslexia, particularly enjoyed the way each subject was taught. In Youthreach, students explore a wide variety of subjects including the core modules of maths, English and computing, along with arts and crafts, computers, childcare, hairdressing, office skills, woodcraft and personal development (subjects vary from centre to centre). Tutors use flexible, individualised and student-centred approaches to deliver the curriculum.
“There are so many different ways to learn that you are given in Youthreach that you can’t get in schools,” Pierce explains.
“The structure couldn’t have been better. The approach is much more personal. You know your tutor’s first name and they don’t mind being called by their first name. I took it more seriously because there was that mutual respect. The tutors really take the time to encourage you and help you understand properly.”
Pierce also benefitted hugely from the life skills element of the programme.
“The funny thing about Youthreach for me, towards the end of it, I was more happy with how much I developed as a person, not just by getting back into the academic side of it, I developed in confidence, people skills, and things that are important in life,” he said.
Class sizes are small, and Pierce recalls that the majority of his classmates happily progressed to new things afterwards.
Pierce, with the encouragement of Robbie Matthews, an Advocate in Youthreach, identified that he would like to continue learning and go to college. He had gained QQI Level 3 and 4 qualifications, which helped him begin his journey through the Access programme at LYIT. The Access electives gave him a taste of the courses on offer there. From day one, he knew that Law was the one for him. Now he is in his third year of a Level 8 degree. The Curve (Learning Support Unit) has always been there to support him with his studies in college.
“Without Youthreach, I wouldn’t be in college that’s for sure. You definitely don’t need to go to college to be happy in life, but I think I would have been very hard on myself throughout life if I didn’t try.”
Youthreach is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.