A Traveller from Donegal is set to continue leading the way in her community following her graduation with a BA in her chosen field.

Pamela Cullotty, from Kilmacrennan, graduated at South East Technological University Carlow’s recent lifelong learning conferring ceremony.

She has been the Family Links Worker with the Donegal Travellers Project since 2021 and has recently taken on the additional role of Drug and Alcohol Development Worker. Ms Cullotty is among just 1.4% of Travellers who complete third-level education. She graduated with a BA Degree in Applied Addiction Studies and Community Development.

Pamela Cullotty graduated with a BA Degree in Applied Addiction Studies and Community Development.

Pamela undertook the degree with An Cosán, Ireland’s largest community education organisation, which provides blended and flexible adult community education programmes to adults across Ireland. Its higher education programmes are delivered online, which means they can be undertaken from anywhere in the country.

She was one of 26 An Cosán graduates from 13 counties who were joined in Carlow by proud family members and friends to celebrate their achievements. Like Pamela, most are already involved in their local communities and, with their new qualifications under their belts, they are well placed to continue making a positive impact in their communities.

Pamela said she had very little self-esteem or self-belief when she started the degree programme.

“However, as I took my journey with An Cosán, my confidence grew and the belief I had in myself that I could do it also grew,” she said. 

“Having the chance to complete the degree online made it possible for this to happen. I live in Donegal, I have kids and a job. If this had had to be all in-house, I know I would not have been able to complete it with the costs of travel, childcare (if I could get it) and having to fit college in around my career. It just wouldn’t have been viable. Also, the fact that it was part-time and I could complete learning and assignments in my own time, and I was able to achieve this without putting too much strain on other commitments in my life.”

Happy graduates from L-R: Leanne Duffy, Pamela Cullotty and Marie Moylan.

As a Traveller woman who left school at an early age with no expectations for herself or from the system, this has been a huge achievement.

“Not only do I stand here today with higher expectations for me; I now have much higher expectations for my children,” she added.

“As I took this journey, I became a role model for them, and also for others in the Traveller community. Only 1.4% of my community make the journey through third-level and that’s why it’s so important that I, as a leader in my community, set an example, but also encourage others to take journeys like mine in whatever they want to do. I want them to know that, as much as it seems like a mountain and nearly impossible, you can get to the top and make your way down the bottom to the finish line. You just gotta do it and take a chance on yourself because everyone deserves the chance to education and to complete their hopes and dreams.”

Pamela said she would never have completed the degree without the unwavering support of the An Cosán staff. 

To find out about An Cosán’s adult education programmes – ranging from foundation level to further and higher level – see www.ancosan.ie