When Stephen Bird took to the stage for his graduation in Hamilton yesterday an extra big cheer rang out.
The 25-year-old is the first man to graduate from Wintec's Bachelor of Teaching Early Childhood Education degree.
And he's also the first with cerebral palsy.
"I'm just raring to go with this new qualification," Mr Bird said.
"I'm really proud of my achievement."
It's the third time Mr Bird has graduated from Wintec. He has also completed a one-year Certificate in Travel and a two-year Diploma in International Tourism.
But early childhood education has proven the vocation for Mr Bird who has secured a full-time position at the Suits and Gumboots Country Daycare in Te Kauwhata.
"It's a new challenge, in a good way."
The former Fairfield College student began at the daycare in February working with children aged 2 to 5, and is "loving it".
"It's a building block in my career. It's the next step out of study."
He found the job on the internet and applied, and now commutes every day from his flat in Hamilton.
Born with cerebral palsy, Mr Bird said he had never let the condition limit him.
"I don't let it affect me," he said.
Cerebral palsy causes physical disability in human development, mainly in body movement but can also affect speech, hearing and vision.
It is caused by damage to the motor control centres of the developing brain and it can occur during pregnancy, childbirth or up to about age 2, and varies between mild to very severe cases.
Mr Bird said he thoroughly enjoyed his six years at Wintec, three of them studying for the early childhood degree.
"Wintec is like home for me," he said.
"The tutors were fantastic. Just awesome support."
In 2010 Mr Bird won an adult study award for being the top adult learner, testament to his energy and enthusiasm.
Yesterday's graduation at the Founders Theatre, complete with cap and gown, marked "the end of an era, but a new beginning" for Mr Bird who stepped out with 56 of his classmates.
This year's graduates in the course were the first to earn a degree, which replaced the two-year diploma course that has been taught at Wintec since 2000.
In all 1790 students will graduate from Wintec courses this week, with around 600 expected to attend in person.
Mr Bird's parents Colin and Karen Bird, who attended the ceremony with his grandparents, said they were particularly proud of their eldest son.
"He's worked really hard and deserves what he's got," Mrs Bird said.