Being guided by a big heart and a determination to advocate for family and Māori health, one nurse has made the final leap into making a difference in her community.
Among hundreds of black caps were wide stretched grins as students paraded the streets to celebrate their graduation from Toi Ohomai's Rotorua campus today .
A sense of relief, completion and accomplishment walked with Bachelor of Nursing graduate Moana Kerr, and 560 other students.
Being a nurse was not something she knew she wanted to do until four years ago after she lost her two brothers.
Her first-hand experience of how confused and vulnerable people could feel when in the health system led her to pursue a career in nursing.
She said it was important to be able to support people when they really needed it.
Kerr moved to the Bay of Plenty with her two sons from Haast, leaving behind her husband and their whitebait business to start her studies.
Although it was far from easy, she was supported by her family who lived in the Waikato while she lived and studied in Rotorua.
Now reunited, her husband moved to the Bay of Plenty and she now worked in the respiratory unit at Waikato Hospital where she started last month.
She has also begun the Nurse Education Training Programme to continue her professional development.
Kerr said her favourite part about her job was being able to advocate for her patient, particularly those who felt vulnerable because of their illness.
More than 80 per cent of the nursing students had secured interviews the day after their final exam last year, which nursing tutor Judith Honeyfield said made this group stand out from previous years.
Toi Ohomai executive director of corporate services Anthony Robertson said the celebration of the qualifications was just as important as the qualification itself.
Robertson said the polytechnic and success that came out it was good for Rotorua.
Two ceremonies and a parade through the city celebrated the efforts and achievements of 560 students today .
The day began with a pohiri and poroporoaki (farewell) at the Tangatarua Marae on the Mokoia Campus.
Both ceremonies were held at the Government Gardens where all students received a diploma or higher - 136 with postgraduate qualifications and 13 received their Masters.
Toi Ohomai April graduation
Business Management and Legal Studies
Engineering, Creative, Technology and Infrastructure
Primary Industries, Science and Environment
Tourism Hospitality and Service Industries
Community Wellbeing and Development
Education, Health Nursing and Social Services