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Student Voices

Introduction to Team D.A.R.A

In 2010 VTOS Athy offered a new Fetac module called Teamwork. The aim of this module is to promote and foster co-operation and communication within a team orientated environment.  As a group we decided to call ourselves Team D.A.R.A. (Dreams Are Realistically Achievable) we believe this name embodies the quintessential role of Vtos Athy in the promotion of such positivity, realisation and fulfilment.  For our core assignment we decided to produce a questionnaire with the express intention of gauging the influence and impact of Vtos Athy upon the lives of past and present students. To that end we formulated and put into circulation our 16 question survey for all those who wished to participate. We are delighted with the excellent response to our survey and because of the volume of information collated we have decided to publish just a selection of student’s statements that accurately reflect the role that VTOS Athy has played in their lives. 


I had worked as a builder’s labourer prior to my entry into VTOS Athy. I had always regretted not fulfilling my potential in school so I looked on VTOS as an opportunity to put things right. I had no specific plan in mind when I first enrolled, I just wanted to do my best and see where it brought me. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised when I started classes; I was under the false impression that it would be more like school where information is just given to you, how wrong I was. The tutors must take immense credit for this as they frequently went beyond the call of duty in order to help and encourage students. For me VTOS Athy opened a door to a whole new world, it helped me to find a focus for where I wanted my life to go and I have since followed that route. It gave me self confidence and also instilled in me the notion that education is a lifelong process. VTOS Athy is a place where there are no strangers, where there is a feeling of camaraderie that will lift you when you feel under pressure. Entering VTOS was a turning point in my life, the encouragement and assistance I received enabled me to look at opportunities I had never dreamed of before. I am currently studying in Carlow College for my B.A honours degree in Humanities.

VTOS student

I applied to VTOS Athy following a recommendation from a friend. At that time I was juggling my part time job in a pharmacy in addition to being a full time mother. I had no idea what to expect and I felt like a child going into school for the first time, I was so nervous. Having come through the process that is VTOS I can honestly say that I spent three of the best years of my life there. I am now a more confident and independent person because of my positive experiences in VTOS Athy. To a stranger I would say never turn the opportunity to re-enter education through VTOS. The whole set up is great and it is my personal belief that the dedication and hard work of the staff makes it what it is. Thanks to my experience in VTOS Athy I am now back in employment, it has been for me a life changing journey that has added great wealth to me personally through my heightened sense of self-esteem and self confidence.

VTOS student

After being made redundant from my job in insurance administration I found it extremely difficult to secure alternative employment. After a year of being unemployed I decided to enquire about doing the E.C.D.L course with VTOS Athy. I had no preconceptions or expectations of VTOS but I found myself to be extremely nervous and anxious about returning to education as a mature student. Initially it was my intention to just undertake a few computer classes; however I ended up completing a full business award. If I were to choose a one word that would best describe VTOS Athy it would have to be “empowering”. My whole experience was enhanced by the influence of the tutors who were always very approachable and helpful. I would have no hesitation in recommending VTOS Athy to anyone considering a return to education. Aside from the obvious educational benefits, VTOS also provides a great opportunity to mix with other people in similar circumstances. Thanks to VTOS Athy I am now more self confident and I am currently in third level studying for my B.A in business, graduating with a qualification such as this will I hope allow me to re-enter the work force in the not too distant future.

VTOS student

Prior to my entry into VTOS Athy I had been employed as a dental nurse, I had always hoped to return to education with a view to possibly progressing on to third level. Naturally like so many others I was nervous and apprehensive about returning to education as a mature student, I need not have feared as all my fellow students were so supportive and welcoming. The tutors are always accessible and will continuously do their utmost to guide and assist each student. For me VTOS Athy is a place where you are accepted for who you are, and not what others think you should be. I would have no hesitation in recommending VTOS Athy to anybody who maybe contemplating a return to education. It has changed my life, it can also change yours.

VTOS student

The first day I walked into VTOS Athy I felt lost, alone and completely bewildered. I was at a cross roads in my life as I had only recently been made redundant from my job as chartered safety practitioner. I did not have a specific plan in mind when I first started; I just wanted to keep my options open. My first year was one of great enjoyment and satisfaction; I quickly formed new friendships and settled in really well, and in addition to this I have always found the tutors to be extremely helpful, friendly and professional. The mixture of age profiles, life experiences and socially diverse backgrounds allows for the expression of varied and insightful opinions. I view my progression through VTOS as a journey, and for me this journey is in itself as important as the destination. VTOS Athy has provided me with a hugely positive experience and in particular my discovery and interest in art as form of expression came as a surprise to me, and I fervently hope to pursue this interest after my time here. As evident in my case VTOS can help people to discover and cultivate those hidden talents that may be lurking just beneath the surface.

VTOS student

I left school at the age of seventeen without any formal qualifications; I did so in order to take up employment in a local factory where I continued to work for the next twenty years. I had always wanted to return to education because I believed I had let myself down due to my immaturity and lack of effort the first time around. I wanted to prove to myself that I could achieve academically and in the process gain some formal qualifications. After being made redundant my opportunity to return to education presented itself in the shape of VTOS Athy. For me VTOS Athy is about people, the tutors here are incredibly genuine, sincerely supportive, honest, encouraging and selfless, without peer in my opinion. There is also a great feeling of solidarity among the students themselves, with all prepared to support and encourage each other. VTOS has the potential to change your life, you just have to accept and confront the challenges as they present themselves by committing yourself and working hard. For me personally my decision to enrol in VTOS Athy has had a profound effect on my life, its influence is beyond measure in so many ways. My journey to date has been thought provoking, reflective and immensely enjoyable, it has provided me with a level of insight, awareness and realisation that only comes from working with genuinely selfless, talented, diverse and interestingly humble dignified people.

VTOS student

“We are where we are” This catch phrase has become synonymous with the current predicament that we as a nation are experiencing. The phrase in itself exudes a sense of dejection, resignation and helplessness regarding our plight as a people; we should not allow this to be the case. 

Team DARA suggests that now more than ever do we need to hear about the positive stories and experiences of people who are trying to make a difference not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of countless others, this is why we initiated this project. As can be seen from students’ statements, VTOS Athy is a shining beacon of positivity, inspiration, hope and fulfilment, it has changed peoples’ lives in the past, is currently helping to change lives, and will we hope continue to do so far into the future.

VTOS Athy is about people, not statistics; it is about people who have dreams, expectations and aspirations. It is about people, many of whom have had significant life experience, and many others who still rejoice in the exuberance of relative youth. The diversity of the people within VTOS Athy allows for the articulation of varied attitudes, opinions and insight, this further compliments the learning environment that is promoted in such a dedicated, passionate and professional manner by all of the tutors involved. As articulated by one student, the tutors form the rock upon which VTOS Athy is built.  If you aspire to change direction in your life, or dare to dream of what can become, then perhaps VTOS Athy is where you belong.

Finally the members of team DARA would like to express their gratitude to all those who participated at various stages during our project, and also a special word of thanks for everyone who has taken the time to read through our presentation.

“Any dream worth dreaming, is worth every effort to make it come true”.  Evan Gourley

 ATHY FET (VTOS) Athy, Carlow  Rd., Athy.   Tel 059 8632044