Belfast Telegraph

University fees bursary in honour of caring teacher Patricia Hughes

By Leona O'Neill

The family of a much-loved teacher who died suddenly in 2016 have set up a bursary scheme in her name.

Patricia Hughes (55) taught English at St Columb's College in Londonderry.

As pastoral carer, she often helped children from disadvantaged backgrounds, paying for books, trips and stationery for those whose families were under financial pressure.

Tributes after her death described her as "a gentle and caring woman" and "an inspiration who enriched the lives of countless young people".

The family have set up the Patricia Hughes Bursary, which will pay the first year tuition fees at university for a St Columb's pupil. Nephew Padraig Delargy (22) said they wanted to do something that would mirror her kindness and generosity, and ensure every student has an equal chance to receive third level education based on merit, not financial background.

He said: "We are hoping to raise as much money as we can in Patricia's name. The way that it will work is that one of the boys who is in upper sixth this year, who will be starting university in September, will have their tuition fees paid for the first year. So it will go towards someone who gets the full education maintenance allowance.

"It means it will help someone who is coming from a family who might have financial pressure, that perhaps otherwise that student might be considering not going to university. And that is why we chose that angle, as that had been something that Patricia had done a lot of work on. She had been very much giving of her own money and it was something that we were keen to get started."

The family are looking into getting charity status for the bursary and have many fundraising events planned for the coming weeks and months. Padraig says that it is a fitting tribute to a woman who gave so much to the boys in the school.

"Patricia was the head of Key Stage Three. A lot of her work would have been in the pastoral capacity," he explained.

"I was a pupil at the school and always got a lift home with her. I remember at the end of a school day wanting to go home and wondering if the endless stream of boys approaching Patricia would ever stop. I remember getting frustrated, and asking if she would ever just leave them and get me home. But what I remember most that day was Patricia's response. That while I would go home and have a dinner ready for me, a uniform laid out, the heat turned on for me, so many of those boys wouldn't.

"Patricia would have helped so many, paying for uniforms, bus tickets and dinners. I was barely finished the school year when she was taking the uniform off me to give to someone starting the school.

"She would have been out getting pupils things they needed, or if a pupil was stuck for money, she would have bought them what they needed. That was very much to the fore of her role.

"With the pastoral role she would have seen a need a lot more than in the teaching role. After she died we got hundreds and hundreds of messages from former pupils who Patricia had helped, who she had made a real difference for.

"We are immensely proud of Patricia's commitment to ensure that each and every pupil had an equal opportunity, and an equal right to education."

Padraig said that watching Patricia inspired him to become a teacher himself. He graduated last week, on the second anniversary of his aunt's death.

He said: "With this bursary, our pride in Patricia's work continues. The pride she instilled in her pupils continues. We hope that through this bursary, we can make her proud of our work to carry on her vision."

To donate to the Patricia Hughes Bursary visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfundi…/patriciahughesbursary

Belfast Telegraph

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