In the last ten years, Dublin native Ciaran Fairman has been, in order, a marijuana smoker, a soccer player with a promising future, a soccer player with a broken hip, a drug-dealing gang member, a recovering soccer player gaining back family trust, a lost and lonely college student and finally, a focused scholar inventing new strategies for exercise science. In just a few short days, he’ll also be a Kentucky Wesleyan College graduate on his way to earning a masters degree at Georgia Southern University.
His life changed, he says, when he was arrested at 15 for possession of cocaine after a tough youth spent in Dublin, Ireland, battling between drug use and gangs and the promise of professional soccer.
“The look on my parents' faces once they found out I was arrested for cocaine – it was enough to change my life forever,” Ciaran says.
He spent two years repairing his relationship with them as he took preparatory classes for college while once again playing soccer – and this in a country where he says less than 40 percent of high school graduates go to college. He earned a scholarship offer to Kentucky Wesleyan and took the nine-hour flight to Owensboro, where he didn’t know a soul.
The first year here, he was lonely, depressed and didn’t understand the culture. His mom got breast cancer the winter of his sophomore year and he had no money to fly home to support her. The physical therapy that eventually helped her heal inspired him to change his major to exercise science, where Dr. Jason Crandall became a mentor and father figure to him as he found his passion – and earned As.
“College has just given me a second chance at a life I never thought I could have,” he says. He is one of only three out of 120 in his high school graduating class to go to college.
Ciaran has excelled in his field. His crowning achievement is inventing a game called Bingocize that combines Bingo with an exercise program for elderly people. He leads KWC students in presenting the game at a local retirement home. The residents love the social aspects (they used to skip exercise to go to Bingo, unwittingly inspiring Ciaran’s game), and the movement helps increase their quality of life.
Ciaran and Dr. Crandall are presenting the Bingocize program at several state-wide conferences and are in the process of trademarking the game.
“Change is hard, but it’s not hard forever,” Ciaran says. “College gets you to think a completely different way.”