The Design School Whangārei graduates Scott Burdett and Karen Gidall. Photo/John Stone
The Design School Whangārei graduates Scott Burdett and Karen Gidall. Photo/John Stone

Scott Burdett and Karen Gidall have packed quite a bit in to their lives.

Burdett, 32, has represented Northland internationally in both boccia - similar to bowls and petanque - and powerchair football, he holds a diploma in digital multimedia and works as a sports reporter at Magic Music FM.

Gidall, 69, has owned various companies, including a food catering business, made it into the first intake of the first New Zealand Master Chef, holds certificates in business and is studying whakairo (carving) at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

The pair have added to their list of achievements after graduating with a level 3 certificate in graphic design at The Design School Whangārei on Thursday.

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"I watch a lot of anime and it has influenced me throughout my life and I just wanted to put pen to paper and see what I would be able to do. It's always fascinated me so I thought I'd give the course a go," Burdett said.

Gidall decided to study graphic design because she wanted to help her daughter with book covers for her online publishing company.

"I needed to learn how to do graphics," she said.

The Design School Whangārei, which opened in 2014 and teaches graphic and fashion design, held an exhibition and open day on Thursday where students' work was displayed.

Mike Saywell, The Design School managing director, said 12 students graduated on Thursday and 15 more are part way through their qualifications.

"We're very pleased with how 2018 has gone. The quality of work has again outstripped our expectations by a long way," he said.

Two years ago the school's future was up in the air after the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) indicated it would not fund the level two fees-free courses, which meant the school would close. But, at the last moment the school was told it would receive funding which covered 2016 and would cover the next 12 months.

Saywell said the now the funding for the next two years has been confirmed.

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"It's just awesome. It's much better than we were a couple of years ago that was a harrowing experience actually."

Burdett has TAR Syndrome - characterised by the absence of bones connecting the elbow to the thumb side of the wrist - but said it doesn't cause any challenges when it comes to graphic design. He said he loved everything about the course.

"The atmosphere, the tutors have been fantastic - worth their weight in gold, and our fantastic classmates because it wouldn't be the same without them."

Gidall agreed.

"My favourite thing has actually been able to extend myself and being encouraged to go further all the time," she said.