It’s party time in Browns Bay, New Zealand for 11 members of the former Torbay Ward, as they graduate from university this year. For a small ward like Torbay, 11 graduates is a huge achievement. With their variety of ages and situations, this group of graduates has reached the end of a long and challenging journey into education and self-reliance. Now they look forward to the future with exciting plans and high hopes.
“I want to be a serial entrepreneur,” Caitlin Lavelua said, “I want to start heaps of businesses with my husband. We have three little companies going so far.”
Like many university students, Caitlin Lavelua took a while to figure out what she wanted to do. Caitlin Moller, another Torbay graduate, found her career path long after she had begun her studies. “When people asked me what I wanted to do with my degree I would say, ‘I don’t know, be a mother.’ Eventually, someone at church pointed out I had an interesting and engaging teaching style, so I thought, maybe I could make a career out of it.”
Hannah Rapata graduated with a Bachelor of Science despite her learning disability. “I have a hearing impairment,” she said, “which made things extra tough so getting through my degree was a real accomplishment.”
Though Hannah’s challenges made things hard she received a lot of support from the university. “They’ve got a lot of disability support,” she said. “They made sure I had all my notes written up for me and in my tests, I got extra time.” Hannah plans to continue on to a master’s degree, she said: “I think studying has helped me to grow spiritually in terms of faith, prayer and a testimony of the grace of God. Heavenly Father knows our weaknesses and He will make up for them 100% and more if we have the faith to try.”
As well as support for learning difficulties, Massey University offers support and counselling for anxiety and other mental health challenges.
Ingela Eiberg, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, developed anxiety as she neared the end of her degree. “I really love studying and learning but I am a perfectionist and developed anxiety,” she said, “With the help of counselling, I was able to get through and graduate.” She now helps others to get help for their anxiety, which is very common among university students with the pressure of exams and assignments.
Ingela is 52 and studied alongside her son Reuben completing the same accounting degree. “He liked my notes” she laughed. “I felt prompted to go back to school and was amazed to find that my brain still worked. You’ll be surprised how your advanced age can actually make you better off than the younger students as you have more life experience.”
Though all 11 reached graduation at the same time, their individual journeys were unique. Caitlin Lavelua worked full time while she studied. Ingela studied part-time while her son Reuben studied full time. Calli Bates received her mission call while Cam Hulme’s first child was delivered. There were tears, long nights and fervent prayers, and none said that the journey was easy or straight forward, but they all shared one sentiment: just do it. Getting started is the hardest part but if you have faith and jump in, God will help you find your way.