Meet Mary Rose Attard, a 61-year old Gozitan with a visual impairment who recently became a second-time University of Malta graduate while being gainfully occupied and the vital force behind her family of three.
Mary Rose just graduated with a BA (Hons) in Social Wellbeing Studies in November 2023, but she also previously successfully read the Certificate Course in Community Access for Disabled Persons, and went on to the Diploma and Higher Diploma in the same stream.
Her journey was undoubtedly fraught with challenges. Her visual impairment, which made her teenage years difficult to navigate, had forced her to leave school.
This, however, did not stop her from pursuing her passion for music. At the age of 15 she attended guitar lessons at the Good Shepherd Pastoral Centre. Her guitar teacher used to say the chords out loud for her to remember them. At the age of 19, Mary Rose was entrusted with the responsibility for the initiation of a children’s choir, a few months later she was appointed director of the ‘Fraternitas’ choir of the Good Shepherd Church, a position she still holds. Her ambition led her to further develop her talent, and so she did. Mary Rose is a composer and song writer contributing mainly to liturgical music, with her first composition being the ‘Our Father’.
At the youth centre where she learned guitar, she met her husband, Raymond, who she’s now been married to for more than thirty years, and together, they have a daughter, Raissa.
Raissa and her husband Raymond have been a major motivating force for Mary Rose, who told the Newspoint team that the most memorable moment from her graduation ceremony was being able to share those few moments with her family and other relatives. “That definitely was a highlight - more than having my hands shook, or receiving the scroll, nothing could top the feeling of having my loved ones there supporting me and cheering me on, knowing it was not an easy journey, but at the same recognising that I made it.”
The course in Social Wellbeing helps her become better at all the roles she currently occupies - whether on a personal level, or at work. Apart from her job at the CRPD, Mary Rose is also an activist in the disability field, she is one ot the founding members of the voluntary organisations, the Gozo Aid for the Visually Impaired (GAVI), and the Gozo Federation Persons with Disability (GFPD). She is also a member on the ‘Kummissjoni Djoċesana Persuni b’Diżabilita - Għawdex’.
What helped her get through her years as a university student?
She partially credits the technological advancements, which made it possible for her to follow the course material. She could follow most of the lectures virtually, and text-to-speech software also helped her take notes and go through the reading materials. In a way, the pandemic and the University’s decision to go online for a while, facilitated this process as well.
But most of all, it was the invaluable assistance from peers, lecturers, and staff at the University, who made sure arrangements were in place for Mary Rose to continue her studies and make it to the finish line.
“Were there people who questioned my case, or couldn’t comprehend why certain arrangements needed to be made for me? Yes. Were there people who maybe stared and didn’t know how to strike a conversation with me? Of course. But, the unparalleled support and the University’s understanding of my situation, was enough to get me through.”
What’s next for Mary Rose?
“Who knows? But time and time again, I think I’ve proven that determination is truly the key to success.”