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Students have their moment to shine on stage at Wintec graduation celebrations

Wintec graduates from across all disciplines were encouraged to push boundaries, be authentic, better themselves, learn from failure and grab their dreams at the 2024 Wintec Graduation ceremonies.

More than 2000 students graduated from Wintec for the year of 2023, with around 880 students crossing the stage in four ceremonies across two days at Claudelands Globox Arena. 

The ceremonies all began with the students being called into the auditorium by a rousing kaikaranga while whānau, friends and loved ones stood proudly to welcome and honour them. Wintec’s kaumatua Tame Pokaia then blessed the ceremony, with Te Pūkenga Executive Directors for Region 2 Huia Haeata and Kieran Hewitson addressing the assemblies on respective days.

A group of Wintec Māori kaimahi beautifully delivered waiata throughout the ceremonies from their dedicated stage, adorned with stunning greenery and ethereal lighting. The National Anthem was led in te reo Māori, English and New Zealand Sign Language by Wintec performing arts students Ella Veitch and Rachel Bloemendal, with the pair later performing the iconic song ‘For good’ from the musical, Wicked.

A highlight of the ceremonies was the ākonga (student) speakers, who were nominated by their kaiako (tutors) to be the voice of their peers. Having travelled hugely different journeys, and coming from a wide range of disciplines, they each brought their own reflective and inspiring words to share, with their unique speeches clearly resonating with their fellow graduates.

The first ceremony, on Monday morning, 13 May, celebrated students graduating from the Centres for Education and Foundation Pathways, Languages and Media Arts with the student guest speaker Bridget Barnett who graduated with a Bachelor of Contemporary Art.

Bridget spoke about her time at Wintec and how it came to be. Four years ago, after coming out of the first lockdown she called her sister and spoke about how she’d wanted to formalise her art and do a degree and her sister had said why don’t you?

Bridget Barnett

“Three weeks later I was enrolled for the Bachelor of Contemporary Art at Wintec and just like that, I had grabbed my dream.”

The mum of four said people often asked her what she would do when she finished studying and she would always say she had no idea, but she knew it would be “fantastic”.

She is now working at Hanrad Gallery as gallery administrator, undertaking her own creative practice, and is a kaiako at Wintec, while studying towards her honour’s degree part time.

“Graduates… I know you will have your own stories of the sacrifices and accomplishments that you have made and the highs and lows experienced through your time of study. I say to you, well done. It takes courage, commitment and effort to keep going. But you’ve done it. I encourage you to keep going. Be exactly who you are. Be your unique expression and authentic self. Push the boundaries, make a noise and be you. Kia kaha.”

The afternoon ceremony on the Monday celebrated students graduating from the Centres for Business and Enterprise, Information Technology, Sport Science and Human Performance, and from Design Factory NZ. The student guest speaker was Peony Smith-Tahere, Bachelor of Applied Information Technology graduate.

Peony acknowledged that for the graduates at the ceremony their new journeys into the work force or further study had already begun, but the ceremony and the day itself was a huge milestone for all of them.

Peony Smith-Tahere

Peony wondered how many of the graduates had faced the same challenges, regardless of their chosen field.

“The challenges of self-doubt. The moments of intrusive thoughts and the uncertainty of what our futures held for us, especially through the Covid lockdowns and isolation. You never know all the challenges, adversities, loss of loved ones, or internal battles somebody else is going through while still showing up, so always be kind and never forget the impact you can have.

She then shared three lessons she had learned during her time at Wintec.

“Lesson one, failure is only failure if you let it be. Lesson two, show up for yourself. Lesson three, keep pushing your boundaries beyond what you think you are capable of." 

Tuesday morning’s ceremony celebrated students graduating from the Centres for Engineering and Industrial Design, Applied Science and Primary Industries, and Trades. The student guest speaker was Brooklin Toia, graduating with a New Zealand Certificate in Plumbing and Drainlaying (Level 3).

The father of two said it was a real privilege to be chosen to speak at the graduation ceremony.

Brooklin Toia

“Plumbing caught my attention because it was a short six-month pre trade course. I have a young family and I’m the bread winner. I worked a full-time night shift and I studied during the day, so I was almost never home and there were a lot of ups and downs in that. But there is a light at the end of every tunnel. My babies keep me motivated; they are my ‘why’ for everything I do. 

“It hasn’t been an easy road. To our graduates, what an effort, what an amazing bunch of people, just to see everyone’s faces here today, the achievements you’ve made, it blows my mind. It’s good to see so many people wanting to change and wanting to better themselves for their future, not just for themselves but for their families. I just want to applaud you for that.”

Tuesday’s afternoon ceremony saw students from Health and Social Practice celebrate as they graduated. The student guest speaker was Jessica Kraenzlin, who had graduated with Paetahi Tumu Kōrero Bachelor of Counselling. 

Jessica spoke about her whakapapa, saying it boasts of Scotland, France, Wales, Ireland and te iwi Māori, and reminds her that partnership is alive and not going anywhere.

Jessica Kraenzlin

“As I look around this room today, I acknowledge the personal stories that have brought you all to this moment. The reasons that have called you to the pursuit of study and the whānau who have shaped you as the people you are today. 

“As we turn our attention to celebrating this incredible moment of achievement, the success of you, let us step back and consider the very ordinary moments it took us to get here. These moments go largely unseen. To the study/work/life juggle, the family, finances, washing, cleaning - or lack of it, the missed moments with loved ones, the guilt, the fear, to the moments of studying in your car while waiting for sports training to finish, to the late nights and early mornings spent reading, researching, and writing. It is these moments in quiet dedication and crazy chaos that has led you here today. You see, a successful life is one full of the very ordinary.

“I honour you and all that it took for you to get here. You did it. We are now qualified counsellors, nurses, midwives, social workers, occupational therapists, people who have chosen a career in service of others, may we hold to fast to the importance of caring and nurturing self so that we embody our why.”

Wintec | Te Pūkenga Executive Director Teaching and Learning Dr Shelley Wilson,  MC of all of the ceremonies, acknowledged it was not easy to be the voice of their fellow students and said she loved hearing each student speaker’s journey. 

“Your words on behalf of yourself and others remind us of the hard work and real spirit which underpins the journey you have all made during your time at Wintec. It also highlights the importance of support from everyone around you, from children right through to grandparents. I congratulate you all on what you have achieved so far and really look forward to seeing the next stage of your journey.”

The ceremonies concluded with a closing speech from Wintec’s Pouārahi Maori, Te Wai Collins, who invited the graduates to stand and turn around to show their appreciation to all their loved ones in the audience and at home, who had helped get them to their big day. The students responded enthusiastically with clapping and cheering. 

The crescendo peaked with fireworks for the excited students who left the auditorium to a guard of honour of their Wintec kaimahi clapping and cheering them in congratulations, to the high energy beats of the Hamilton Cook Islands Association. All that was left was for them to let their hair down and celebrate their achievement with their whānau and loved ones.  

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