Gaining two qualifications at EIT, Crystal Edwards is drawing on what she's learnt to shape a career in visual media.

From Hastings, the 29-year-old's passions have always been drama - "I was the little actress of the family" - and her Ngti Kahungunu descent.

Her "very staunch" mother, Laine Edwards, enrolled her daughter in rumaki for total immersion learning. When Ms Edwards went on to Karamu High School she was always a year ahead in Maori studies.

The post-school plan was to enrol in a degree in te reo, but a holiday job at the end of sixth form turned into a 10-year stint at Silverfern Farms Pacific at Whakatu. Starting as a janitor, Ms Edwards progressed into amenities, the boning room and slaughter floor and was then appointed support administrator for the beef slaughter board.


During this time, she also worked part-time at Tkitimu Performing Arts Centre and for Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga's Youth Transition Services.

Meanwhile her mother, alert to her drive and passion continued their conversation about opportunities to study Maori at EIT.

"Education is important to our whnau," Ms Edwards explains. Proud of all her extended family, she says many of her whnau have pursued tertiary education and have professional careers.

It was two negative events that derailed her "addiction to earning cash" - a major health scare and an ill-judged put-down delivered when she missed out on a job. The mean-spirited remark was "a light bulb going off in my head", she recalls.

Mulling it over, she resolved to take control of her career and committed to full-time study at EIT's Te ranga Waka.

"It was a buzz, the best move of my life".

In her final degree year, Ms Edwards scored a part-time job at Radio Kahungunu, topped her class and decided to pursue a career in the media.

With that in mind, she progressed to Diploma in Screen Production studies at EIT's ideaschool. While students are taught "from scratch", she felt overwhelmed by the challenges of her first semester and considered pulling out. However, she heeded her mother's advice to finish what she had started.

Continuing with her studies was "definitely worthwhile", opening up new opportunities. Ms Edwards was a runner for Maori TV during the elections, was part of the film crew that recorded Eagles' band member Joe Walsh's presentation last year at Te ranga Waka, headed a crew filming a Red Cross fashion show and worked part-time for AWA Transmedia Studios in Waiohiki.

She now has a permanent position with the Government-funded production studio, which uses social media to promote positive social development, and also works for Radio Kahungunu as a part-time announcer.

"She's a ball of fire," says Puti Nuku, the head of Te ranga Waka. "At every Maori event I go to, whether that's at night or the weekend, she's there with a microphone or camera. Her lecturers are very proud of her - she has such amazing potential."

A future goal for Ms Edwards is to use her visual media skills to revive the histories of Kahungunu.

"We don't have many resources like that for marae and families," she points out. "I want to tell the stories of Pnia, Kahungunu, the lovers Te Whatuipiti and Te Huhuti and others, putting them on a visual medium so children can just push play."