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Brave Queen’s student overcomes adversity to graduate with degree in Social Work

Anita Dennison (aged 24) from Newry, Co Down, will celebrate graduating from Queen’s University Belfast today (Friday 23 July) for the second time with a degree in social work.

Anita Dennison
Anita Dennison

Anita was inspired to undertake her degree in social work due to her past experiences of being bullied at secondary school. She said: “I was bullied at secondary school, despite the great support I received from my peers and teaching staff. The cyberbullying was the worst as it was anonymous, and it impacted my confidence the most because I knew it could have been anyone.”

Brave Anita decided to create an anti-bully social media campaign in 2012 which she started on Twitter and her own website to share her experience and help others going through what she did. She explained: “I submitted the campaign to my school's anti-bullying competition and won. I never would have imagined how many people it would have helped, having young people and parents alike commenting and asking for support from around the world. It has been an honour being able to share my story through various means, including a TEDx talk and getting to share the stage with amazing people such as current mental health champion, Professor Siobhan O'Neill.

“My ‘Don’t Bully!’ Twitter campaign has been supported by over 6,000 people including celebrities, but more importantly young people and their parents. My degree and job have informed and helped my campaign and strengthened the support that I can provide to people online which is fantastic, as well as using my own experiences.”

Anita earned several awards for her anti-bullying campaign including the Princess Diana Award, the Spirit of NI Overcoming Adversity Award, and the Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister. She said: “I didn’t start the campaign for recognition, I did it as an outlet to help myself and others. However, I was honoured and fortunate enough to be nominated and win these awards which I will never forget. To be recognised was incredibly touching.”

Speaking about her experience as a student at Queen’s for the second time, Anita commented: “Queen's has been an amazing experience, from my first degree in International Studies and Irish to my degree in Social Work, I have been very lucky to meet lifelong friends in both these areas of study.

“One of the most enjoyable parts would have to be taking part in the Inspiring Leaders course and meeting like-minded individuals, hearing their stories, and being inspired to help create change in my local and wider community.”

Anita has taken up a post as a social worker. She said: “I have already started my dream job which is supporting young people coming out of the care system to become independent. I have always wanted to work with adolescents and young people to help them overcome challenges, become independent, and to face the world around them. I get to use my own past and my own challenges to support these young people and make a difference to their lives.”

Even though she is working during the day of her graduation celebration event, Anita plans to mark the special occasion by celebrating with her family and partner that weekend. Giving some advice to her peers, she commented: “Congratulations to all the 2021 graduates, in particular those, such as myself, who may have been told along the way that they weren't good enough but have managed to overcome these comments and achieve their dream degree and job – you deserve it!”

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