This is Marielle (right) with her sister Marisol. Yesterday Marielle sat her first Leaving Certificate exams.
In 2007, Marielle came to Ireland from the Philippines to join her parents, who were working here. Marielle spent 6 years in secondary school in Cork; her friends are Irish, her mother is an Irish citizen, Ireland is her home.
Like all Leaving Cert students, Marielle is planning her future. She hopes to become a paediatric nurse. Unlike most Leaving Cert students, however, if Marielle achieves the college place she has worked so hard for she faces yearly college fees of €8000 as she is not yet an Irish citizen.
Now that she is 18, Marielle is applying for Irish citizenship - at a cost of €950 - in the slim hope that her application is processed before September. Then, even if she becomes a citizen just weeks after she starts her course, she won't be able to reverse her fee status. Essentially, she and her family will be stuck paying €8000 every year for the rest of Marielle's time in third level - unless the Department of Education & Skills acts now.
Two years ago, Marielle's sister Marisol faced the very same barriers to third level, and back then the family decided the financial burden was more than they could manage: Marisol had no choice but to defer her nursing course for one year, and then another.
Marielle's parents have worked and paid taxes in Ireland for years, contributing to the community and to the education system. Sending their daughters to third level in the country they call home would cost the family some sixty-four thousand euro - and that's before books, transport or accommodation.
Right now, Marielle is sitting in an exam hall, doing her best to succeed. It's time for the Department of Education and the Department of Justice to make sure she can.
To understand why Marielle, Marisol and many other young migrants around Ireland face huge barriers to third level, check out this section of our website and watch the 4-minute video made by young members of the Migrant Education Access campaign.
MRCI and the Migrant Education Access group are working hard to fix this situation. We're minding the gaps in our education and immigration systems because these bright, ambitious young people deserve their chance to progress and contribute.