Friday 28 July 2017

From homeless and expecting at 15 to a lecturer at Trinity College

Katriona O'Sullivan,Research Fellow ,TCD
Katriona O'Sullivan,Research Fellow ,TCD
John with his Carlisle kit

Laura Lynott

AGED just 15, Katriona O'Sullivan was pregnant and living in a squat - today she is a Trinity College lecturer in psychology and her son is living the dream as a professional soccer player.

Teenager Katriona dropped out of school, despite being academically bright, as she dealt with a crisis pregnancy, homelessness and isolation.

Despite an incredibly tough setback in life, the Blanchardstown woman, who is now married with two other children, battled on to achieve impressive success in life.

She then passed on her vision that anything is possible on to her son, John O'Sullivan (23), who was up until recently a winger for English second-division side Blackburn Rovers.

The former Ireland youth player, who moved to the UK to play professionally when he was aged only 16, has now signed for fourth-tier Carlisle United.

Though she was a bright kid, Katriona said she "had no direction in life".

John with his Carlisle kit
John with his Carlisle kit

After announcing her first pregnancy to her family, Katriona said she found herself homeless. She gave birth to her son in Birmingham.

"I was suddenly pregnant, homeless and squatting with my boyfriend," said Katriona.

"Because I was still a child, I was placed in a hostel for young mothers when I was about five months pregnant."

DEPRIVED

The young couple split up when John was two and Katriona moved to Summerhill in Dublin to be close to her parents, with whom she had started to build bridges.

"I got a flat, rent allowance. This was 1996. I felt stunted, deprived of opportunity. There was nowhere to go," she said.

Katriona's journey towards success started when she bumped into another single mum one day.

"She told me she was studying law at Trinity on the Trinity Access Programme (TAP). She had the same background as me, very disadvantaged," said Katriona.

"I didn't believe her. I asked where did she get into Trinity and that minute I marched straight over to the access programme and said 'what do I have to do to get in here?'.

"People don't realise young women who've been through hard times have learned to fight."

Katriona went on to study, juggling single motherhood with academia. She gained a place studying a psychology degree at Trinity and, in her spare time, played soccer with John.

She gained a first class honours degree and won a scholarship to continue her studies by doing a PhD in psychology at the prestigious college.

After finishing her doctorate, Katriona was invited to become a psychology lecturer at Trinity on the TAP course.

"I've been doing this since 2008 and it's been a wonderful experience," she said.

Herald

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