It was a desire to upskill which led Daryn Thompson to start a nursing degree at NorthTec.
The Whangārei dad had been working in the mental health sector as a community support worker for 10 years and when looking at his options he decided to start the Bachelor of Nursing course at NorthTec in 2017.
Three years later Thompson is now working as a mental health nurse for Northland DHB, and yesterdayhe officially graduated.
"In that role I was helping out with people's needs - their benefit, housing, ensuring they had their clinical appointments with their clinicians, psychiatrists and mental health nurses," he said.
"I now get to do a lot more on the clinical side of things. So sitting in reviews I can have a voice and a say around medications and things like that and even administer them."
About 416 NorthTec students were expected to be at graduation yesterday - about 100 of them proudly marched through the Whangārei CBD about 1pm.
Thompson, a father of three children aged 19, 17 and 10, was right up the front holding the banner as NorthTec's valedictorian.
"I'm pretty excited. Initially I wasn't even going to go to graduation. With my mindset it was, okay I'm going to do this paper, I'm going to get this job then I'm going to go to work," he said.
Thompson said seven of the 10 years he spent as a community support worker were with Northland DHB. He was one of four staff who received a scholarship to upskill thanks to an anonymous $50,000 donation.
He said although he initially started the nursing degree to upskill, he ended up "thoroughly enjoying it".
"It gave me a greater appreciation for the nursing profession because they have a lot of skills and a wealth of knowledge. The quality of nurses that I witnessed through my placements was really really high."
Thompson said his wife is also completing her Bachelor of Nursing, his eldest daughter is at Auckland University of Technology studying criminal law and sociology, and his son is doing a building course with the goal of getting an apprenticeship.
He said he hoped his kids had learned what was possible with hard work.
"I hope that they've learned that through hard work you can achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. And that it's important to have goals, and my goal was to upskill, so that they can see that it's possible to go away to uni, go away to study, get a qualification and give them a better chance at life."