To me Latara Kerrigan is one of life’s amazing people. She is an exceptional young woman, an accomplished artist and a role model for young people with severe hearing impairments. Latara, who has been effectively deaf since birth, lets nothing in life faze her despite the many significant challenges she faces on a daily basis.
I first got to know Latara almost two years ago through her Job Coach, Andy Gordon, at South West College. Andy was looking for a placement for what he described as a ‘unique artist’ and I was only too delighted to accept and to learn, through time, exactly what Andy meant by ‘unique’.
Latara was studying a course for Students with Special Needs (STEP) at the Omagh Campus, but had a real determination to progress to the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design, the equivalent of 3 A-Levels, so this placement with the College marketing team would really help with securing her ambitions.
I remember all too well her first day - she was so shy and apprehensive, and everything I did to try and make her feel more involved just didn’t work. I really thought she wasn’t going to stay and I felt powerless to help her. But I was wrong. Over time everyone in the team learned different ways of communicating with her, and as soon as she realised that we were keen to get to know her and help her, we all found our feet.
The amazing piece of art recently completed by Latara defines SWC staff in full caricature and is now proudly displayed for the public to view. It’s a constant talking point for staff, students and visitors. Latara’s ability to capture each staff member’s unique features was incredible, chins and all – thanks Latara!!
For me getting to know Latara and understanding her world was a real privilege and learning experience. Just spending time with her made me often ponder what it must be like to walk a day in her shoes. To be isolated from a world of sounds. All I can think, is that it must be so frightening. It is only when you realise the complexities of the challenges Latara faces that you truly admire her passion to succeed. To all our delight she got on her course and is progressing really well, making new friends and meeting each new challenge head on, as only she can.
It’s worth pondering, if even for a moment, the amount of concentration it must take to have a simple conversation, something we all take for granted.
One lasting thing that Latara has taught me is that life is full of difficulties and obstacles. It is just how we deal with them that counts. When faced with problems, we often feel - 'I am the only one getting it tough.' Or, we tend to exaggerate our problems and regard them as the most complex or most painful. But if we look around us, we find people in worse situations who simply inspire us. Their smile, their character and their ability to overcome life’s challenges is truly remarkable. To me Latara embodies all of this and more.
By Clair McKenna, Marketing Manager South West College