Graduation is always a celebration, but those celebrations intensify when there’s not just one, but two family members graduating from the same College. At Southern Regional College’s September graduation at the Armagh City Hotel there were two families with double celebrations ongoing.

Mairead Gallagher from Mayobridge and her niece Niamh Cunningham from Poyntzpass both graduated on Friday 1st September, Mairead from the CACHE Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Children's Care, Learning & Development (Management) and Niamh with the Open University Foundation Degree in Digital Marketing Advertising Communications Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA). Both undertook their courses at the College’s Newry campuses.

Mairead is the currently the Deputy Manager at Jellytots Playgroup in Mayobridge. This is not Mairead’s first experience of the College, having undertaken a Level 3 Childcare course once her own five children were of school age. Speaking on the day Mairead said:

“The Level 5 Diploma has helped me to gain loads of knowledge and build my confidence. The tutors were extremely supportive and encouraging. I have come away with a wealth of knowledge and many friendships!”

Niamh started her Degree HLA programme back in September 2020 in the midst of the Covid pandemic. For Niamh the course has provided her with excellent employment opportunities. As part of the course, Niamh gained a work opportunity in Keenans Foods where she continues to work. Keenans Foods is a biscuit and cookie business, based in Armagh, supplying major businesses including Lidl, Henderson Group and Nisa.

Other family members graduating include brother and sister duo Alli and Amy McKee. The siblings live in Newry but attended SRC’s Banbridge campus studying separate Creative Imaging Degree courses. Alli undertook the Liverpool John Moore's BA Hons Degree in Creative Imaging and has used the tools learnt to set up his own business “In Rainbows”, alongside offering his services as a designer on a freelance basis.

Speaking on his business, Alli said:

My small business has given me the opportunity to meet and work with some incredible creatives and businesses, both local and further afield. I have had some of my creations stocked by local businesses, including Belfast-based Fresh Garbage and Paperxclips Books, and have shipped orders all around the world.”

Continuing from this, Alli hopes for the future include:

“Running my business on a larger scale and to have a dedicated studio/office space to operate out of. I would also love to be in a position to give back to the creative communities that I am a part of, whether that's through organising events such as markets and exhibitions, or through financial grants for up-and-coming artists/businesses.”

Alli credits his time at the College with honing his skills:

“My time at college has without a doubt helped me develop the skills and confidence that I needed to grow my business. I was able to develop my skills in using industry-standard creative software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, as well as having the opportunity to experiment with a range of more physical creative processes including printmaking, batik and analogue photography, among others. I was also given the opportunity to work on live design briefs with real-life clients which gave me a valuable insight into what to expect from a career in design.”

Sister Amy undertook the Pearson BTEC Higher National Diploma in Creative Media Production and is returning to the Banbridge campus to undertake the same Degree programme as her brother. Amy’s reasons for returning to the College include loving SRC’s approach to work. Amy commented:

“I got the opportunity to work on client briefs and obtain real-time feedback. I learnt new skills alongside likeminded classmates. The course is a close as you could get to working in industry.”

Of course, we can’t forget those family members who support a loved one through their studies. A graduation is very much their celebration too, and not just the Graduate!

For further information of the range of Higher Education courses and Degree options available at SRC, check out the website at: The College is still accepting applications onto its Higher Education courses commencing in September 2023. For information on clearing places available, visit: Higher Education places still available..