Inspirational graduate remains ‘very focused’

Joel Emerson pictured at his graduation. Photo by Marie Allen.
Joel Emerson pictured at his graduation. Photo by Marie Allen.

A family have spoken of their pride after their son defied the odds to graduate from Ulster University’s Magee campus.

Joel Emerson, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, graduated with a 2.1 in Business Information Systems on July 9.

The 22-year-old attended Ceara School in Lurgan for two years before transferring to Richmount Primary on the Moy Road and then to Donacloney Primary to finish his primary education.

Praising the educators who supported her son in his early years, Joel’s mother Rhonda said: “When Joel started Ceara, he didn’t have many communication skills. After his two years there his communication skills had improved and he was able to move into mainstream education. He’d been introduced to the schedule system and this helped immensely.

“Joel received support from a classroom assistant at Richmount and also when he moved to Donacloney. Joel then moved to Dromore High. He worked hard in his GCSEs and A levels and was able to go on to study at Magee. We’re very proud of what he has achieved.”

Although Joel’s graduation was a chance to celebrate his educational successes, it was also an emotional day for the family. Rhonda added: “My mother Margaret Boyd passed away before Joel’s graduation. She had bought Joel’s laptop that he used at Magee and had been very supportive during his educational journey. She had prayed for him every day and would have been very proud to see Joel graduate.”

Following his graduation, Joel received assistance from his university mentor and has been successful in getting a job at Lloyds Bank in Belfast- a role he commences this week.

Rhonda concluded: “We hope parents of children with special needs or autism can be encouraged by Joel’s journey. He’s worked hard and remained focused on what he wanted. We wish to thank the Southern Education Board, his teachers and classroom assistants and his mentor and lecturers at university.”