Paraparaumu's Nina Stewart, 18, has been given a "chance of a lifetime" that will see her leave New Zealand next year to begin an exciting new sporting adventure.
The ex-Paraparaumu College student has been selected by Hockey New Zealand to participate in a school hockey programme, where she will live as an international student in the United States, studying sports management.
An avid sportswoman, Nina has seen doors swing open for her since she received a letter from Hockey New Zealand in September last year, inviting her to trial for a spot in the programme.
"This was the chance to do something I never though was possible -- the chance to go and play hockey for a USA state college, all while studying a bachelor's degree of my choice and travelling.
"If that's not the chance of a life time, I don't know what is."
After attending the trials in Auckland on October 10, where she later returned for an interview, Nina was sent a letter to say she had been accepted for the programme, and would need a $3000 deposit that included health insurance cover.
"My mother wasn't sure if we could afford the costs at first, but together with my stepdad, agreed it was too great an opportunity to miss.
"While I was originally asked to go this year, we decided to defer the hockey until next year."
She said she clearly remembers the day she was accepted for the programme.
"I had an email congratulating me saying I got into the programme, and I told mum and my teacher first and then I cried a little bit.
"All my family and friends congratulated me and I was so happy I couldn't sleep that night."
Having played hockey since Year 10, for four years, Nina was part of the Kapiti women's hockey team for three years.
"In my first year, 2012, we won the R2 women's division and in 2013 I played for the Kapiti women's R3 division, where it came down to a one on one with the goal keeper, with penalty strokes.
"I took them on and won the grade, with the helpful support of the coach, players and supporters.
"A huge thanks to my coaches over the past four years, Alison Fitzmaurice, Sue Spellacey, Doug Turnbull, Andrew Rider and Caroline Thompson."
Nina, whose mother and grandparents also played hockey, said the thing she enjoyed most was "getting out on the field, having a clear mind and playing a strong team".
"When I started hockey, I was never really successful on the field, but as soon as they kitted me up in the goalie gear and sent me to the goal, I kicked butt. Nothing this big has ever found its way to me.
"I'm ready to start the newest chapter of my life."
To help with Nina's fundraising efforts, visit www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/nina2usa.