Hilary Copeland
Hilary Copeland

Hilary has worked in arts management since 2008, for festivals, arts and theatre companies in Edinburgh, Belfast and most recently Dublin. She is one of the founding pupils of New-Bridge Integrated College in Loughbrickland, Co. Down. She is Chair of the board of Integrated AlumNI.

"An integrated education has shaped my adulthood more than I ever could have imagined, and brought me opportunities I never would have anticipated. Through the AlumNI, I have presented at the House of Lords and the Houses of the Oireachtas, speaking about my experience as one of the early intake of pupils at New-Bridge Integrated College.

When speaking to friends who were brought up outside of NI, I tried to explain what integrated education was, and the response was often confusion as to what the concept involved or why it would be worth explaining. In many areas of the UK and Ireland, the idea of girls and boys from a variety of academic abilities, religions and communities being educated together is simply just ‘school’.

But it was only when I moved back to Northern Ireland in 2010 and started working alongside people who had very different upbringings from my own that I realised that’s what it meant to me too. That learning and working alongside all kinds of people, who could talk about our differences and even joke about the same things that we saw the rest of our country fight about, was so much a normal part of our education that it was just ‘school’ to us. It was normalised. I became very aware that for over 90% of young people in Northern Ireland their experience of ‘school’ is not at all the same.

As past pupils of integrated schools, we have gone out into the world formed by our educational experience. We want to tell other people about what that experience means, and what a difference it can make."