Three students – one from each of the three faculties at Queen’s – have recently received awards from Choice Housing, one of the largest independent housing associations in Northern Ireland.
Choice Housing launched the five-year scheme in 2019 to support and motivate students from Widening Participation (WP) backgrounds to achieve academic excellence and to complete their studies.
Tiago Realinho (Biochemistry), Sophie Mayse (Economics with Finance) and Jacob McArdle (Software Engineering) were each awarded prizes of £1,000 in recognition of their academic attainments.
The Choice Housing Prizes provide financial support to students who have participated in either the Pathway Opportunity Programme or Senior Academy Programme, key Queen's initiatives delivered by the University’s Widening Participation Unit (WPU).
Speaking about the Choice Housing Prizes, Lawrence Jackson, Group Director of Corporate Services at Choice Housing and a Queen’s alumnus said:
“We are delighted to be continuing this important partnership with Queen’s.
“Everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, should have the same opportunities to go on to third level education and, through this initiative, we aim to support and motivate students from Widening Participation backgrounds to achieve academic excellence and to complete their studies.
“We hope that through these prizes, Choice Housing can help the individual recipients to succeed in the future and contribute to creating stronger inclusive communities.”
Established in 2013, the WPU comprises the Junior Academy, the Senior Academy and more recently the Pathway Opportunity Programme. WP students may include young people who are in secondary education and colleges, students who have disabilities, care leavers or adult learners.
The Senior Academy and Pathway Opportunity programmes target young people who have the ability to attend university, but who are least likely to progress to higher education, and provides support to enable them to fulfil their potential.
The Choice Housing Prizes are awarded to the Pathway Opportunity Programme or Senior Academy students, who achieve the highest overall mark in Level 1, and who will be continuing to Level 2.
Commenting on the latest Prizes, Outreach Officer for the Queen’s Widening Participation Unit Ted Jensen (above right), said:
“We are delighted to be awarding a Choice Housing Prize to these three students to recognise their academic achievements this year. We are very grateful to Choice Housing for providing this generous support to our students.
“The Widening Participation Unit at Queen’s has worked with a wide range of young people, teachers, schools, colleges and parents to raise the profile of opportunities open to those who want to achieve academic success.
“We hope that through awards such as the Choice Housing prize, we can help recipients to succeed in the future.”
Welcoming the prizes Teresa Sloan, Head of Health Fundraising in the Development and Alumni Relations Office at Queen’s, said:
“The University welcomes the continued and very generous support of Choice Housing for these important prizes, which celebrate high achieving students who have participated in our widening participation programmes.
“It is particularly welcome as the prizes acknowledge academic success across our three faculties, Medicine Health and Life Sciences (MHLS), Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS), and Arts Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS).”
The Pathway Opportunity Programme aims to increase the number of students from under-represented groups who will go on to study at Queen’s. The Programme is for talented young people from Northern Ireland who have the academic ability to study at Queen’s but who may require additional support and encouragement to reach their full potential.
The Senior Academy Programme raises awareness of higher education in primary and post-primary pupils by developing their academic skills and supporting attainment. Specifically targeting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, these programmes are open to all and provide insights into university life.
For Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences recipient Sophie Mayse (second from left) the Choice Housing Prize is about much more than money.
Expressing her heartfelt gratitude Sophie said:
“I couldn’t be more thankful to Choice Housing for this award! I have been a lot more motivated in my studies since receiving it as I now feel the work I put in doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It was the perfect boost to starting second year especially considering the circumstances that myself and other students are currently facing regarding being able to go home to jobs/families whilst also affording to sustain a semi-functional student life in Belfast during Covid.
“I’m feeling very grateful for this generosity and will certainly put it to good use.”
For Software Engineering recipient Jacob McArdle (second from right), the news that he was to receive a Choice Housing Prize came out of the blue.
Speaking to Queen’s Jacob commented:
"I was amazed when I heard I got the award. To know that your work was good enough to be rewarded is huge. I'm grateful to Choice Housing for supporting students including myself in such a massive way.
“Thank you also to the Widening Participation Unit for their support over the last few years and for opening us up to opportunities like the Choice Housing Award."
And adding his personal appreciation, Biochemistry student Tiago Realinho (left above) in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences said:
"I sincerely appreciate this recognition of my hard work and it will be put to very good use.
“I am very grateful to Choice Housing for providing this support in a time of need for students.”