"When I'm out of here, I'm never going to let anyone hold me down again."
Those were the words Skyla Anderson-Wynn would say to herself as an 8-year-old girl, locked in her room, staring at the wall.
Nearly 10 years later, she's kept that promise.
Now, aged 17, Skyla has just finished her final year at Tikipunga High School where she was deputy head girl. She earned the dux award and has three scholarships to support her while studying a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts and Commerce at The University of Otago next year.
"When I was 15 I said to myself - why would you let go of that now, what has changed? You've got your freedom, are you just going to sit there, are you just going to let people decide for you? No," she said.
It's a pretty incredible mindset for a young person to have, even more so when you understand Skyla's background.
She lived primarily with her grandparents in Auckland from a young age, her dad was in prison, and she spent her days locked away in her room in what was a violent environment.
"Because I was so young and I wasn't allowed to ask questions, it made me feel turbulent with myself and angry with the people surrounding me. Because I thought I had done something wrong as a child - which is completely incorrect and far from the truth."
At 12, Skyla was placed into Child, Youth and Family care, and about a year later she was placed with her mum - who had turned her life around - in Whangārei.
"She'd gotten a new life of her own which I'm really grateful that she has. I was just happy to be with my mum again after so many years of all sorts of turmoil."
Skyla attended Pompallier Catholic College before moving to Tikipunga High School.
She fell in love with the school - she felt she had met her "kind of people", she was in kapa haka, and she was able to kōrero Māori in class and have people speak it back.
But she had trouble with some friends, who assumed Skyla thought she was better than them.
"In Year 12 I cut off all chances of wanting any friendships and I said I'm not going to stick myself to the stigma Tiki High has. I'm just going to study. I want dux, I want to go to uni, I want to do amazing and only I could do that," she said.
Her determination and hard work paid off.
Skyla earned three scholarships - A University of Otago scholarship for Māori excellence worth $14,000; a Jack Swindells Estate Scholarship worth $7000; and the University of Otago Dux Scholarship.
"I'm still coming to terms with deciding if I'm overwhelmed or relieved ... I never would have thought that dream would come true," she said.
Skyla said one thing she has learned is that you can give two people the same resources but it's up to them what they do.
"You can give them both wood - and you will see who makes a fire and who makes a house. I don't want to keep making houses, I want to make an empire."