Over 190 graduates from across the Lower North Island took to the stage at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Tuesday (11 May 2021) to receive their well-earned qualifications from leading online and distance learning provider, Open Polytechnic.
The event took on extra significance as both 2020 and 2021 graduates were in attendance due to last year’s ceremony being cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bunnythorpe local Katherine Allanson, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Information and Library Studies), was one of two student speakers at the event. Representing 2020 graduates, Katherine said following her passion for books and enrolling with the Open Polytechnic was an important first step in her journey.
“When I started my studies as a single mother of one 10 years ago, I had little to no confidence to go out in the workforce and get a job in the library industry. However, knowing I had the flexibility to study one course at a time, in my own time while raising my son felt like something I could achieve,” she said.
Now a full-time teacher aide, office administrator and Librarian at Bunnythorpe School, Katherine says she is proud of her achievements.
“I still have that passion to encourage students into a life-long love of learning and reading. Studying with the Open Polytechnic has given me the confidence, knowledge and skills to get into both the library and teaching world.”
Porirua resident Rangikihia Kalman, who graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education), represented the 2021 graduates. His speech shared the importance of having a support network in his journey from a reluctant high school student, to butcher and now early childhood teacher.
“Growing-up I did not like going to school, and after my 16th birthday I was offered the opportunity to work at the freezing works in Wellington. I was a butcher for nearly eight years and never really considered a career in early childhood until a friend suggested I would be good at it,” he said.
After securing some part-time relieve teaching work in Porirua, Rangikihia went on to join a programme offered by the Wellington Kindergarten Association that supported young men in developing professional skills finding jobs in the early childhood sector.
“It was through them I felt even more supported to pursue this career. Also while studying knowing that you have people you can go to for help including whānau, friends and Open Polytechnic teaching staff, made things easier. It also enables you to help others. Relationships were highlighted to me as an important aspect of life, especially when it comes to caring for and teaching our tamariki. This is something I carry forward with me as an early childhood teacher,” he said.
Education Minister, the Honourable Chris Hipkins, was guest speaker at the event.
Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig said the flexibility of distance study meant the organisation’s mainly adult graduates were able to complete their studies while continuing to move forward in their careers.
“Studying online with Open Polytechnic, and fitting learning around existing work and family commitments, enables our students to apply their learning directly into the workplace. This flexibility means employers and the wider community are benefitting immediately from our learners’ commitment to upskill for their current or future career.”
The learners graduated with a variety of diplomas and degrees including early childhood education, business, legal executive studies, engineering technology, accounting, management, environment, social health and wellbeing, social work, information and library studies, health and human behaviour, psychology, marketing, applied science, information technology, construction, architectural technology, design and decorating and the arts.
The Wellington ceremony is the second of three for Open Polytechnic, with the last graduation ceremony of the year on Thursday 20 May in Auckland. Overall, 550 graduates will attend one of the three ceremonies.