Two Kaitaia women have overcome the burdens of distance, travel and juggling children, to graduate as nurses.
Ani Skinner, a mother of five sons, with another child on the way, and solo parent Shantel Naera graduated earlier this month from NorthTec’s three-year Bachelor of Nursing degree course in Whangarei.
Both are crediting the support of their whanau with achieving the degree, but it hasn’t been easy, with the women at first having to travel to Whangarei daily for the course, meaning leaving behind their children.
And both have a message for others considering furthering their education, but worried about how hard it may be: go for it.
Ms Naera, mother to 7-year-old Rayleigh, said she and Ms Skinner would car pool to get to Whangarei daily for lessons and at times stayed on the NorthTec marae in Whangarei, which meant leaving their children in the care of family members.
“It’s been a long and hard three years, but we’ve got there. It was quite challenging, with a lot of hard work needed, and absolutely a lot of sacrifices had to be made,” Ms Naera said.
“But that was my goal [to earn the degree] and to provide a better future for myself and my son. If it wasn’t for my family’s support I wouldn’t have been able to do the degree.
“There were a few times I wanted to give up because it was hard and frustrating, but with my family’s support and encouragement – and that of Helen Cossey [NorthTec’s Kaitaia student adviser] I got through.”
She said Ms Cossey understood the difficulties and stress, including the travel involved, and helped her overcome her misgivings.
Ms Naera hoped others contemplating extending themselves by doing a degree outside the Far North would be inspired by her and Ms Skinner.
“Just go for it. It’s a life-changing experience and there are only positives to come from it, even if at times it may not seem like that,” Ms Naera said.
Ms Skinner, a mother of five sons, with another child due in October, was proud to have attained her degree after dropping out of school at 15. She worked a lot in kitchens and catering, serving people food, and she was determined to become a nurse to serve people in a different way.
She did the first year of the degree while living in Whangarei, but had to move back to Kaitaia at the end of that year, but was determined to continue, despite the difficulties.
Ms Skinner said she took inspiration from the many other Far North residents who had to go elsewhere to get a degree and hoped others would be inspired by her.
“I looked at those others who had done it before me, including nurses, teachers and social workers, and thought if they can so can I. There’s a lot of encouragement up here from previous graduates, but you have to go away if you want a degree.”
She said NorthTec was “an awesome place to study” with plenty of support from Ms Cossey and Michael McGiven.
But it was the support and help from her family, and a lot of hard work, that got her through.
At one stage she failed a paper and had to do an extra six months to complete it, which also put her behind the other students, and she wanted to quit.
“But they all helped pick me up to go on and finish and I’m just so proud of them all for helping me.”
And her advice to others?
“If you are thinking about changing your life, go for it. There is plenty of support for them and Northtec has a great support system. The world is your oyster.”
Both hope to nurse in the Far North, although Ms Skinner will await the birth of her child before she can take up a job.
The pair were among a group of Far North residents in the 45 who graduated as registered nurses from NorthTec earlier this month.
It was a family affair for the Cuddy sisters, with two sisters graduating together while a third is preparing to start as a first year nursing student. Melanie, 29, and Honey, 22, were both delighted to finish their studies, and older sister Kim, 31, was there to celebrate with them before her studies get under way next week. Their mother, Patrina Cuddy, also graduated as a registered nurse five years ago from NorthTec.
The sisters, originally from the Hokianga but now living in Whangarei, are from a family of six children, and say their mutual interest in nursing is because they have all grown up with an interest in people.
“I couldn’t imagine us having a job where we just sit at a computer all day,” said Melanie.