Waiting game for star student

Isadora De Melo Oliveira is a busy woman, but she doesn’t know any other way as she juggles a host of different things in the pursuit of her dream.
It’s Friday morning and while most of her peers are still nursing themselves after the celebrations of a few nights before, Isadora is getting ready for her shift in an Ennis butcher’s shop which begins at 1pm, while before that there may be a few houses around the town to clean.
It’s the same on Saturday – an earlier shift on the butcher’s stall that finishes at 12 noon, with the prospect of some more house cleaning afterwards. On it goes into this week and beyond.
But it’s only the half of it though, if even that.
You see, in between all this work, there’s the other work that has occupied her over the past number of years – her passion for education that last Wednesday made her one of the highest achievers among the 1,400 or so students in Clare who sat this year’s Leaving Certificate.
“575 points,” beams Isadora, showing off the certificate she collected from Coláiste Muire in Ennis last Wednesday morning. “I was delighted with results and my family was delighted and proud I did so well,” she adds.
But that piece of paper, and the badge of honour wrapped around those 575 points doesn’t tell Isadora’s story, doesn’t even scratch the surface of it really – a journey, as much as a story that has brought the 18 year old such achievement, where nearly any career she wishes to pursue is open to her.
Five years ago she had no English – she got an A2 in her Leaving Cert paper, while her other results were just as impressive. A1s in Portuguese and Technology, A2 in Physics, B1s in Maths and German, B2 in Economics.
All this after initially coming to Ireland on a few weeks holidays to visit her family.
“My parents came over to Ireland from Brazil to find work and lived in Ennis,” she reveals, “but I stayed at home in Brazil. Then five years ago myself and my sister came over on holiday and have been here since.”
Home is Anapolis, a city of around 400,000 people that’s about two hours from the capital Brasilia – it’s where Isadora thought she’d be returning to after her brief stay in Ennis back in 2009.
“We were being brought back to the airport for the flight home by my father when he asked us, ‘do you want to stay’. We said yes and I’ve been here ever since and started secondary school in Coláiste Muire that September.
“When I started my English was so bad – I had no English, but I started picking up stuff. I liked English as a language and I learned it quite fast – I found it interesting as a language,” she says.
“School here was so different. In Brazil you go to school at 7am and finish at 12. I wasn’t the most diligent student to be honest, but I did what I had to do. I did my homework and studied, because I want to go to college.”
That’s the crux of Isadora’s story.
She has the points; she’s one of Clare’s highest achievers, but as things stand this week after the first round of college offers on Monday, she won’t be going to university and taking her passion for learning to the next level.
“I filled out the CAO forms and the college offer is there,” she says. “I want to do Electronic Engineering. I put down NUIG and University of Limerick. I am hoping to go to UL, because I heard that it is very good and it is not far from home. NUIG is very good too.
“If you are a citizen you can get your fees paid and a maintenance grant through SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland), but I am not entitled to anything as I’m not an Irish citizen,” she adds.
In order to qualify for fees and grant aid, candidates must fulfill at least one of the following criteria: be a citizen of the EU, have refugee status, be a family member of a refugee, be a family member of an EU national, have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in Ireland.
As Isdaora doesn’t fulfill any of these stipulations, she’s left with a number of different options.
She could try to fund her own college education, but the prospect of a financial outlay of up to €15,000 a year to get a college education would be very prohibitive; she can hold out hope of securing a scholarship in the next few weeks; she can give up on her hopes of going to university here and return to Brazil in the hope of furthering her education there.
“I want to go to university here,” she says unequivocally. “I have asked about scholarships and would love to get one. I have the results, but I don’t know if there is a scholarship out there for me.
“I have asked the career guidance teacher in Coláiste Muire and she told me about one that’s in NUIG. I know a Brazilian guy who did his Leaving Cert three years ago and he got a scholarship in NUIG. He told me that it’s very good and he only has to pay about €200 a year. I was hoping to get something like that.
“If I don’t go here I might have to go back to Brazil – there are public colleges over there that I could go to after sitting some exams there, but I want to go to college in Ireland. I did my Leaving Cert here, I worked hard for it and I would now like to have the opportunity to go on to college here. It’s the next stage for me and I want it very badly,” she adds.
It’s a case of waiting and hoping that there’s a scholarship out there for her.
Surely there is!

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