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Brave Clare battles chronic illness and dyslexia to lift student of the year award at ceremony in London

By Angela Rainey

Published 15/07/2016

Carrickfergus girl Clare Magowan is now studying at Ulster University
Carrickfergus girl Clare Magowan is now studying at Ulster University

A hard-working student who has overcome the odds after suffering a debilitating bowel condition for the last four years has won a national award for her dedication to her studies.

Co Antrim woman Clare Magowan (20) said she had previously been written off by education officials after a diagnosis of Crohn's disease.

It inflamed her digestive system and meant taking regular medication and having infusions every eight weeks,

The painful life-long illness, which can leave sufferers in agony and hospitalised, meant Clare could only attend Year 12 for a total of 28 days, and could not sit her GCSEs.

But the ambitious Carrickfergus student joined Belfast Metropolitan College's Castlereagh campus where she studied uniformed public services for two years - and it wasn't long before her hard work earned her a position at the top of the class.

Last week Clare pipped more than 1,000 others to win the accolade for outstanding public services student of the year at the National BTEC Awards in London.

Clare, her parents Alison and Robert, and lecturer Ruth Forrester attended a lunch at Westminster in London before collecting her award at a ceremony at the Royal Horticultural Halls that evening.

"I was so shocked to be nominated and then to win," said Clare, who is now in her first year reading history and psychology at Ulster University.

"I ended up with Crohn's through the stress of my GSCEs and my confidence for education was low, especially as I am also dyslexic.

"But going to Belfast Met was the best thing I did. The lecturers were fantastic, so supportive, they knew when I was having a bad day and they would just listen to me.

"I couldn't believe it.

"It was hard at times with the Crohn's, but they helped me through and I got five distinctions."

And it's not the first time Clare has proved her educational strengths.

Last year she won a JP McManus Scholarship, which entitled her to £5,500 off her university fees.

Head of sport, care services, health and supported learning at Belfast Metropolitan College, Paul Boyle, said: "On behalf of the college I would like to congratulate Clare on her outstanding achievement. It is because of students like Clare that my colleagues and I are involved in education."

A former fire cadet at Carrickfergus Station, Clare hopes to become a full-time firefighter once she graduates.

"My advice to someone in my position is to do the course that you want and then do what you can to get through," she added.

"One way or another you will make it out the other side, no matter what you're up against."

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