I’m from a small town where sometimes it can feel that nobody really matters to anyone. You can easily be dismissed as a nothing if you don’t try to push through the stereotypes.
Growing up in Kaikohe wasn’t the issue; it was the people who surrounded me. I saw and heard a lot of things that kids shouldn’t. I saw thugs and gangsters roaming the streets and in my school, almost every kid had a gang colour to ‘rep’.
Kaikohe isn’t much different from other towns in Aotearoa New Zealand. The big difference is quality schools and lack jobs. Most people who I saw dropped out of school, lived off their parents, or worked in a supermarket, not because they wanted to but because they could see no other choice.
I’m lucky. I have a dad with a full-time job and a family who loves me and values education. I want to study medicine and one day become a pathologist. But because I went to a small, low decile high school I knew that compared to what other students learned in top decile schools, what I was learning was so much less. For us, well, there are only seven physics teachers for all 28 schools in Northland. I understood that I’d have to work for my dream. So I did.
I worked harder than I ever thought I could. I spent my holidays learning organic chemistry because my school didn’t teach it. I needed these unit standards for uni, so I had to learn two years of classes in two weeks by myself.
And yet, it turned out my hard work and determination just weren’t enough.
Did you know to be a student in Auckland city is really expensive? Especially when your parents don’t live here. I was accepted into the University’s student residence, O’Rorke Hall, but to move in I had to pay a bond and weekly rent. Now that may not sound like a big deal but it was a heck of a lot money to me.
By now you’re thinking, why didn’t I save up money at high school, or why don’t I get a job this year? In Kaikohe, it’s incredibly difficult to get a job and I needed every spare moment to study to pass exams. I still do, which makes it really hard to find flexible work during the semester that fits around the extra study I need to do.
Just when a way forward seemed impossible, I received a scholarship funded by alumni like you. I don’t know if the alumni who made the scholarship possible will ever really understand the difference this made for me and my family.
I’m the eldest in my family and for my siblings to see that I’ve made it to university is worth the stress and madness. It makes it even more rewarding that I can show people who watched me grow up that the place you live in doesn’t have to hold you back. It’s the mind set you use that helps you get places in the world.
Te Orakiri Patricia Graham
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