Derry `prime recruiting ground' for world class universities
SCHOOL-leavers are to be given the opportunity to study at elite US universities without having to foot the bill.
Co-operation Ireland has launched a new initiative to help disadvantaged young people undertake degrees at prestigious institutions.
Its cross-community Building Bridges scheme is being piloted in Derry and will this year send six students to Yale University in Connecticut.
It is planned that the programme will be rolled out to other areas in Northern Ireland and the Republic and include other universities.
Post-primary pupils from families eligible to claim benefits including income support can apply.
The aim is to provide financial support, of up to £11,000, for those who through their studies at school; their extra-curricular activities and their examination results "have shown that they are well qualified to take a university degree".
Lumen Christi pupil Aidan Donaghey will begin his studies at Yale and will be joined by five other pupils from Derry schools next year.
Yale is ranked among the best universities in the world and is the alma mater of Hillary and Bill Clinton, George and George W Bush and Henry Winkler.
Its Associate Director of Admissions Keith Light encouraged other Ivy League colleges to visit Derry to look for students after being bowled over by Aidan.
"I have rarely been to a place in all these years where the school leaders and the community leaders from all walks of life have seen the value of having their young people rise up and get the tools they need to become part of this amazing renaissance," Mr Light said.
"Those are the words I used when talking about my first trip here and I hosted all the Ivy League admissions officers at a conference and I spent time talking about my experiences here and why it was different that simply going to different parts of the world."
Describing Aidan as a flag bearer, he said it was his honour to present him with the Yale Pennant to mark his acceptance to the college.
Peter Sheridan, CEO of Co-operation Ireland, said Building Bridges offered huge potential to young people and also Derry city "who will benefit from having their sons and daughters travelling to one of the world’s leading educational institutions".
"I also want to thank the businessmen and women who have already contributed to the Building Bridges education fund that will allow our young people to travel to the United States for this life changing opportunity, and encourage anyone who would like to help support the programme to get in touch with Co-operation Ireland," he said.
:: For more information visit www.cooperationireland.org/programmes/youth-education-programmes/building-bridges-yale-scholarship.