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Student beats addictions and finds new pathway to success

Student beats addictions and finds new pathway to success

Battles with drugs and alcohol ended Shane Timmerman’s career building bridges as a civil engineer, but now he’s conquered those addictions, gained two university qualifications and is building bridges of a different kind.

The 32-year-old graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts within the field of Criminology at the University of Auckland’s May Graduation. This follows his completion of a BA double major in Sociology and Criminology.

Now he builds bridges in the community at PARS, the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society in Auckland. Shane works with prisoners on their release from prison and their families to help them reintegrate into society.

The degrees and new job are a far cry from his old life.

Originally from Glen Eden but now living in Mt Wellington, Shane got into trouble as a young teen and ended up going to three high schools, the last one in Whangamata. When he was 14-years old he was thrown out of school and home.

He found work in the building industry and worked his way up from grading timber to building houses and then on to concrete bridges. But by his mid-teens he had developed drug and alcohol addictions and gang affiliations that stunted his career and saw him eventually lose his job.

A string of short stints in the building industry followed, but he couldn’t drop the drugs and alcohol and tried to end his life. An unexpected visit by his mother halted what could have been a fatal overdose.

After rehab he decided to enrol in the University of Auckland and acquire a qualification where he could help others. It was then he began studying sociology.

“I was taking some sociology papers on the side and thought, ‘this is so interesting’. I began to understand my positioning in society. That is what opened my eyes and I have just been fascinated ever since.”

“Learning about my ancestors and the history of Aotearoa gave me a basis to understand who I am as a person.”

Not only did sociology teach him an accurate history of New Zealand through the eyes of Maori and Europeans, it helped him understand and come to terms with aspects of his past.

His experience at University gave Shane the confidence to change, and his work at PARS will help others make positive changes in their lives.

He already has some words of advice: “Keep your head up and find those agencies that can help, find those avenues that are out there.

“Everyone deserves a second chance at an education and a healthy lifestyle.”


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