A Banagher man has said this week that he was honoured to receive the AIT President's Award at the recent conferring ceremonies at the college.
Aaron Mulrooney said he wouldn't have gotten through his three years at AIT, where he studied for a Bachelor of Business, with Music & Instrument Technology, if it wasn't for the support he received from his friends, classmates, lecturers and staff at AIT. He particularly thanked lecturer Michael O'Dowd, whom he described as a friend for life after the support he received from him.
Aaron faced many personal difficulties during his three years at AIT, including the loss of his father, caring full-time for his son who has autism and a cancer scare, but completed his studies nonetheless and was recognised for his determination with the President's Award. “A little bit of humanity really helps,” he said of his encounters with people and said that despite all he has been through since beginning the course in 2014, he still got to see the goodness in people.
Aaron's father passed away shortly after he began his studies at the college. His father was his sole surviving parent and both he and Aaron's mother had been a huge support to him in raising his son, Jason, who has autism.
Aaron raised his son after splitting up with his ex-wife when Jason was three. While studying in AIT, Jason completed his Leaving Cert and also began his own studies at the college.
“He didn't adjust well to the social side of college,” Aaron explained. “He's attending a FETAC course in Birr Mental Health Centre now to give him the social skills to deal with college. He wants to go back to college,” said Aaron.
While supporting his son through his education and also concentrating on his own studies, Aaron had many trials to deal with.
On the first anniversary of his father's death his father's house was broken into and a number of Aaron's and his father's custom made guitars were stolen.
“When the guitars were stolen the response I got on Facebook was phenomenal...The support I got from the staff and people in the college was something else,” he said.
Aaron also had his own health issues to contend with while completing his studies. He had melanoma years ago and earlier this year he had a scare when doctors feared it may have returned. He required a small surgery but thankfully he got the all clear, although he said it was a very stressful time as there were weeks of not knowing whether the cancer returned.
Last year, Jason's cousin died by suicide and although he was Aaron's ex-wife's nephew, Aaron said he had spent weekends at their house growing up and he had always brought him, his sister and his own son Jason on holidays. He was also Jason's closest friend and losing him was very difficult on them both, Aaron said this week.
Speaking about receiving the President's Award, Aaron said: “It was an honour and a privilege to receive it. It's not just my award, it's Michael O'Dowd's, and Mervin Driscoll's and all my friends who helped me through it and the college's for helping me through it. I want to thank all my friends who helped me over the years, I wouldn't have managed it without them”.