Joanne O’Riordan secures Leaving Certificate marks and college place
AN IRISH teen born without arms and legs celebrated a double triumph after scoring an excellent Leaving Cert and being awarded a prestigious university scholarship.
Joanne O’Riordan (18) admitted she was “absolutely over the moon” to have secured a prestigious Quercus scholarship from University College Cork (UCC).
The scholarship is worth up to €10,000 and was awarded to the north Cork teen under the active citizenship category in light of her remarkable contribution to Irish society and civic life.
Joanne, a student at Millstreet Community College, was the focus of a remarkable film by her brother, Steven, entitled: ‘No Limbs, No Limits’.
The teen suffers from Total Amelia, a condition that has left her born without arms and legs.
She is one of only seven people in the world with the condition.
Joanne was honoured by the United Nations in April 2012 for the incredible courage and determination she has shown in defying her disability.
Her address to the UN in New York was hailed as inspirational as she challenged industry leaders to build her a ‘life robot’.
“It was my mother who realised how things had changed with advances in technology and she put me in front of a computer when I was just two years old,” Joanne said.
“I tried every possible way to use it and I succeeded. I now use my laptop for schoolwork, to send e-mails and for use on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.”
The courageous teen also challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny over controversial cuts to Irish disability resources.
Joanne will now study criminology at UCC and was among the first intake of students to qualify for the Quercus talented students’ programme.
“I want people to know and understand that education is a way to a better life. Education should be inclusive and open to all abilities. We need to invest in our future because our future is the key to our success as a country,” Joanne said.
UCC have transformed the complex in which Joanne will live for the next three years.
“They have gone the extra mile in adapting the house I will live in. They are making the environment in which I will study more accessible.”
“I hope that these changes will not only help me but others like me. Today is not just a good day for people with disabilities, it’s a great day.”
Her parents, Joe and Ann, said it was a very proud day for their entire family.
“When Joanne sets her mind to doing something she does it. As a father I’m so proud of her simply because the start she had in life was difficult but we have jumped those hurdles and this is what has happened,” Joe said.
UCC expressed delight at having such an inspirational person decide that the Cork campus was her preferred choice.
“Talent comes in many forms. The mentoring and support on offer through the Quercus programme will help these students hone their own unique offerings even further,” a spokesperson said.
UCC’s head of disability support services, Mary O’Grady, said more than 1,000 disabled students are now fulfilling their potential at the Cork college.
“This number represents a remarkable increase since 1990 when just 80 students were registered with the service,” she said.
Joanne was last night planning to celebrate with family and friends – and said her year will be complete if her beloved Cork goes on to win the All-Ireland hurling crown.