‘I thought I had missed my chance at education’

STRABANE man Adrian Brown thought he had missed his chance at education. That was until he found out about a community programme which turned his life around.

Diagnosed with a heart condition when he was just five, Adrian spent weeks at a time in and out of hospital, missing valuable years of early schooling.

He left school with very few qualifications, and the notion that through bad luck he had missed out.


However when he turned 40, Adrian found out about a community education course run by North West Regional College (NWRC) at the Strabane Community Unemployment Group. It was a turning point.

Six years-on and life has completely changed for the Strabane man.

After completing his level three qualification in art at NWRC, Adrian went on to Higher Education and recently graduated from Letterkenny Institute of Technology with a degree in graphic design, and is now setting his sights on a career in the creative industries.

Looking back on his path through education Adrian explained, “When I was five-years-old, I was diagnosed with a heart condition, and this had a detrimental effect on my education. I basically missed out on almost two thirds of my education due to hospital appointments and being admitted for tests and observations. This went on until I was 16 years old.

“When I was able to attend school, I enjoyed studying English, history, and art.

“I was always asking why, how, and being inquisitive generally. Art was the subject that I enjoyed the most, as I found it therapeutic. It was the one that I desired to develop and build on; but couldn’t because of financial and health issues.

“Due to the gap in my education, I left with two GCSEs and opportunities were limited for me.

“This led me to wander aimlessly for years suffering low confidence and low self-esteem. I felt I had unfinished business with my education.

“Then I heard about the Essential Skills programmes, run by NWRC with the Strabane Community Unemployed Group.

“I did an ICT  course and there was a publishing module to create flyers for a fictional company.

“The module was to last eight weeks, I had the module completed in five and a half hours.

“My artistic side was reawakened, and I was encouraged by the co-ordinator to explore it further.

“This then led me to the Nerve Centre to enrol in a creative arts and digital technologies course. Towards the end of the course a friend recommended a foundation studies in art and design.

“So I enrolled in the UAL level three foundation studies in art and design at NWRC and I absolutely loved it. My tutor Gerard Maxwell made me, and all the students feel comfortable and was always available to give advice and encouragement.

“My confidence and self-esteem grew as I progressed through my time at NWRC. I left with a distinction in my foundation course that year,” Adrian explained.

“NWRC is a great place to achieve your goals and to progress to higher education in your chosen discipline

“Before I finished my course at NWRC, I received an offer from Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) for a place in a BA Honours degree in graphic and digital design. I graduated with a 2.1 ordinary bachelor’s degree in January this year. I gained entry to the Honours programme and am currently in the last weeks of what has been a challenging year for everyone.

“Despite the uncertainty surrounding everything, I hope to gain employment as a designer, or, have a go at starting a small business of my own.

“We must remain optimistic in the face of adversity, and we must have hope for the future. My journey has been empowering on a personal level, and I hope that my journey will encourage others to see that it is never too late to come back to education and fulfil their potential. Dream, Believe, Achieve.”

• NWRC offers community education outreach learning in venues throughout Strabane, Derry, and Limavady. For more information contact: or visit

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