Raun Makirere-Haerewa was always involved in sports, but he never considered turning his passion for exercise into a career.
Of Ngāti Porou and Cook Islands descent, he left school early, worked and at 20 years of age he and his brother left the Bay to work on a fishing trawler in the South Island.
It was a tough year; six weeks on the ocean, a few days at port to unload the catch and then back out again for six more weeks before getting some time off.
"My first daughter was born in that year and I definitely missed out a lot. Being away for most of the time didn't feel right."
So Makirere-Haerewa came back to Hawke's Bay and decided to steer his life in a new direction. After weighing up his options, he started a Certificate in Health and Fitness at EIT and was hooked from the get-go.
He added a Diploma in Recreation and Sport and then moved to Tauranga to work as a personal trainer. But there was definitely some unfinished business left in Hawke's Bay and so he returned. Now he is in his second year of the Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science.
Over the years Raun has opened himself to uncovering interests for things he never had expected to be interested in.
Makirere-Haerewa is building a professional network and giving back to the community in his fulltime role for the Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust.
"Working for the trust is a dream come true," says Makirere-Haerewa.
"There are so many golden opportunities and I have met great people that have put me in the right positions."
Based at the EIT Institute of Sport and Health Raun creates development programmes for young athletes.
He particularly enjoys his involvement with the Wairoa Young Achievers Trust working with Year 7 and 8 Wairoa College students.
"Our goal is to ensure their overall wellbeing, develop leadership qualities, physical abilities and cultural identity and to make a positive difference for the youth and the community," he explains.
Fulltime work, study and his kids, Aniwa, 10, Manea, 9, and Awanui, 3, are keeping Makirere-Haerewa busy.
"I had to become quite adaptable, but I'm committed to push through. The studies give me the direction where I want to be."
So where is the final destination?
"My heart is steering me towards Māori health although I don't know yet what it might look like exactly. Teaching is also in the mix."
He has been involved with Flaxmere primary schools and the Community of Learning project to help improve educational outcomes. He says being from Flaxmere helps to engage with the school children.
"They just know that I'm one of them. I know the challenges and the hardships many of these children are carrying with them. I went to the same school, I was a young dad but I worked hard to be where I am now. Nothing is unachievable."