06 Jul 2022

Derry graduate Bronagh keeps last promise to baby daughter Sofia

Honorary awards for George Fleming, of Fleming Agri Products, and Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk, from Özgul of Elemental Software

Derry graduate Bronagh keeps last promise to baby daughter Sofia

Bronagh is keeping the promise she made to baby daughter Sophia.

A graduate from North West Regional College (NWRC) who completed the Access Adult Learning course and is now studying Nursing at Ulster University (UU), said the medical care and love that was given to her terminally ill baby daughter, Sofia, inspired her to return to education.

Bronagh Parke made a promise to two-year-old Sofia during the last moments of her life that she would give back to all the nursing and medical teams who looked after her.

The 29 year-old will be one of more than 800 students to be acknowledged as Graduates from the College’s Class of 2021. The graduation ceremony, which will be streamed live on YouTube, takes place at the Millennium Forum from noon this Wednesday.

During the event, honorary awards will be presented to George Fleming, of Fleming Agri Products, for contribution services to skills and employment, and Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk, from Özgul of Elemental Software for contribution services to social inclusion.

The event MC will BBC TV and weather presenter Barra Best.

Graduate Bronagh enrolled in the Access Diploma in Health and Welfare in 2019 and is now in her first year of a Nursing Degree at UU’s Magee campus.

Bronagh said: “I loved doing my Access course. When I finished my GCSEs at school I went back to do my A-Levels, but I didn’t finish them.

“I gave birth to my daughter Sofia when I was 21, she was born terminally ill with only one part of her heart developed. I remember being handed that wee baby and taking her home. She was my world, so much so that I kept asking myself - is it normal to love your baby this much?

“Becoming Sofia’s mammy meant I had to grow up very quickly. Sofia needed many medical interventions at Altnagelvin Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, and in Birmingham. I wanted to look after Sofia at home, so I insisted on being trained in tube feeding, oxygen and the saturation monitor.

Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk, from Özgul of Elemental Software who will receive an honorary award for contribution services to social inclusion.

“I was never told a time frame for Sofia’s life, and I was oblivious to the fact that one day I’d lose her, I never believed it.”
Little Sofia passed away two weeks after her second birthday in 2016.

“Sofia died in my arms, and as she did, I made her a promise that I would give back to all the people who had looked after and cared for her,” said Bronagh. “The medical teams inspired me every day, they treated Sofia like she was their own child.

“The time after she died was very difficult, but I had great support from my family and Sofia’s daddy.

“When I was ready, they encouraged me to keep that promise I made to Sofia. I didn’t have any A-Levels so the Access course at NWRC was my next step.

“Completing that course and getting into nursing was a great achievement for me. It prepared me so well for university. I was so lucky to have lecturers around me who supported me and my mammy Tara, who looks after my other daughter Harper when I’m at college.

“I’d say to anyone who didn’t finish their education for whatever reason to take the plunge, it was the best thing I did.”

Graduates of Art & Design, Business, Computing, Construction, Engineering and Science, Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy, Early Years, Health & Social Care, Hospitality, Tourism, Sport, Media, Music, and Performing Arts will gather at the Millennium Forum with friends and family to mark the successful completion of courses undertaken at the College’s Strand Road, Limavady and Strabane campuses.

Honorary award for George Fleming, of Fleming Agri Products, for contribution services to skills and employment

Principal and chief executive of NWRC, Leo Murphy said: “We are delighted to be gathering in person for our graduation ceremony that will celebrate the success of the class of 2021.

“Every one of our graduates has worked extremely hard, studying, and continuing to learn during a global pandemic. The entire college community is proud of all their success and achievements.

“This is a day that many have been looking forward to, sharing in the company of fellow classmates, lecturers, and of course their family and friends who have supported them every step of the way. I encourage each of our graduates to make the most of the opportunities they have in the future.”

The college’s graduation ceremony will be live-streamed on YouTube – search NWRC College. 

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