Regina Rapata says she likes a mental challenge.
It was what kept the 30-year-old solo mum from Matauri motivated while juggling her studies at NorthTec with looking after her two 10-year-old twin boys, a 6-year-old son, and a 3-year-old daughter.
Yesterday the hard work paid off as she graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Management and was awarded the $1000 NorthTec Council Business Management prize for her academic achievement.
"I was a stay-home mum before I came into this but I wanted to better myself, not only for me but for my kids. I come from a small settlement in Matauri and we can only get so far in a small rural area," she said.
Almost 250 NorthTec graduates from about 14 different subjects marched through Whangarei celebrating completing diplomas, degrees and graduate diplomas.
Ms Rapata started her journey with NorthTec in 2011 at the Kerikeri campus. She completed a level four Certificate in Business, Administration and Computing - it was her first qualification after leaving school at 15.
In 2014 she completed a New Zealand Diploma in Practice Management at the Kerikeri campus while pregnant with her youngest daughter.
A year later she moved from Matauri to Whangarei - where she has no family - to study a New Zealand Diploma in Business at the NorthTec campus.
She spent the final two years doing papers for her bachelor's degree and last year she interned at Northland Inc.
"Time management was the key. We've always been a tight knit unit. We're probably at our humblest when we're in the struggle of it all because we get to learn more about each other.
"One of my twins has a rare genetic syndrome and he also has autism so routine is a key for him. I had to have a good routine and if it didn't work for us I'd change it. I had night classes 5pm to 9pm and over that time there I made friends who have supported me and looked after my kids as well," she said.
When asked what kept her motivated she said it was "the mental challenge".
"You learn something new so your mind is always feening for that and wanting that."
Ms Rapata said graduating was special.
"To me it was like all that hard work - doing my kids, my internship, helping my fellow classmates out, all those late nights getting three four hours sleep - it was all worth it and my hard work paid off."