My fear became courage and my education became knowledge

An Cosán graduates and staff

“My fear became courage and my education became knowledge”. Those were the words of adult learner, Natasha Jordan from Tallaght, as she addressed fellow graduates and their families at An Cosán’s graduation ceremony in The Russell Centre, Tallaght, on 30th of June 2023. Natasha, who was one of 11 graduating from An Cosán’s new Personal and Professional Development (PPD) Certificate said she was proud of herself for moving out of her comfort zone and returning to education. Also graduating on the same were 11 adult learners who recently completed An Cosán’s 12-week Return To Learning course in preparation for continuing on to further education.

Natasha said it was the passion she discovered for lifelong learning, while completing a community development course with An Cosán, that had prompted her to enrol for the NFQ Level 6  programme. “This course has been the foundation of my career as it allowed me to learn new skills and improve academically,” she said. Natasha is now pursuing An Cosán’s BA in Applied Addiction Studies and Community Development programme accredited by South East Technological Institute Carlow, and has secured a job as manager of Belgard Community Centre, Tallaght. “This would not have been possible without all the time I have put into re-educating myself,” she said. “When I found An Cosán, I found a whole new chapter to my life.”

A number of the PPD learners participated in a learner photovoice exhibition, which was launched on Friday by Senator Lynn Ruane. The Whirlwind and The Path comprises photographs and narratives showcasing adult learners’ experience of community education and will run in An Cosán, Jobstown, Tallaght, from 10th to 14th July. The exhibition’s name comes from the fact that An Cosán is Irish for ‘the path’ and from the description by one of the participants, Amy Hanleyfrom Cavan, of her experience of adult community education. “My experience being on the course was an absolute whirlwind of emotions and experiences,” she said, “Getting back to learning, the highs and lows of dealing with wi-fi connection, coursework, getting to know others, and completing assignments, all while struggling with recovery from a medical event in 2020. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at once.”

Amy, who has since landed her dream job and plans to continue with her education, said of her experience with An Cosán “The course has really given me so much self-awareness and has improved my communication skills, which is really helpful with my role at work and in general. The brilliant supports provided by An Cosán in a fantastic learning environment is what makes the difference. They want you to do well and will do anything they can to advise, assist and support you.”

An Cosán CEO Heydi Fostersaid “The Whirlwind and The Path is a celebration of An Cosán’s learners. Each of the participants in this exhibition took the opportunity to challenge themselves, to meet new people, and to learn new things. The exhibition shows how a diverse group of adult learners have navigated very real changes and challenges. We hope it will encourage adults facing similar challenges to consider returning to learning.

“All contributors are third-level learners drawn from our Certificate in Personal and Professional Development programme, which is designed to enable adult learners to navigate a changing world of work and lifelong learning. Over two years, 50 adult learners have enrolled. Certificate participants represent those priority groups most under-represented in traditional university settings.

“I would like to acknowledge our colleagues in the South East Technological University for their strong commitment to collaboration with An Cosán and to the shared values that underpin our lifelong learning initiatives. Together, we are building new pathways between communities and university education. Since 2011 1,017 learners have achieved an accredited third-level award through our partnership. I would also like to thank the Higher Education Authority for the support An Cosán and SETU have received under its Higher Education System Innovation and Transformation Call 2018.”

An Cosán’s Higher Education and Photovoice Project Lead, Thomas Murray, said “In a changing world of work and lifelong learning, An Cosán demonstrates the potential to re-imagine third-level education in community settings. The exhibition highlights how and why we do this. It shows An Cosán as a special learning community – our ethos, and our model of wraparound support, digital inclusion, and transformative education.

“By amplifying the voices of adult learners who have benefitted from community-based higher education, the exhibition makes a powerful statement about the importance of community education spaces and practices in making adult learners feel welcomed and valued. Achieving genuine system innovation and transformation means this: intentionally including the people most affected by policy in its design and implementation. “As we share this exhibition in the future,” Thomas concluded, “I hope policy-makers and services will take inspiration from that principle and from the transformative learning on display around us today.”

The Whirlwind and The Path exhibition will run from 10th to 14th July (10am-4pm) in An Cosán, Kiltalown Village Centre, Jobstown, Tallaght, D24 R3PN. See for details or tel: 01 462 8488. All welcome!

Picture of Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks

Sarah has worked in marketing and content creation for many years. In her role at Newsgroup, she is the online editor of with a particular interest in local news and events. Sarah also works closely with our editorial team on our printed editions in Tallaght, Lucan, Clondalkin and Rathcoole/Saggart. If you have a story and would like to make contact please email Sarah at



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