Katy Gavin is just one year away from graduating from Open Polytechnic with a degree in early childhood education, something she didn't think was possible a few years ago.
The Stratford student left school at the age of 15.
"High school just wasn't for me. I didn't enjoy school and was keen to leave as soon as I could."
While Katy had always considered a career in teaching and working with children, she chose to work in a local supermarket instead as she was so keen to leave school.
"I didn't want to stay on and do my exams, I just didn't enjoy anything about it at the time."
The dream of being a teacher didn't leave her though, and when she turned 18, Katy decided it was time to see if she could turn her dream into a reality.
"I had heard about the opportunity to study through the Taranaki Educare Training Trust and it appealed to me when I first left school, but I wasn't quite ready to try it. Three years later I was, and so I began my study with them."
Katy says being able to live at home, enjoy fee-free study and have the support of local tutors all helped her progress through the various levels and courses.
"It was really good as we spent two days a week at the New Plymouth campus, and three days a week on placements in primary schools and early childhood centres."
Having been unsure as to if she wanted to teach in early childhood or primary at the start, the course also gave her an insight into which field she preferred.
"I enjoyed both, but I prefer early childhood. There is something really amazing about seeing how much young children grow and develop in those early years, getting to be part of that learning journey with them is really good."
Having gained a range of level 3 NCEA qualifications through Educare, Katy wasn't ready to finish her studies.
"I enjoyed the experience so much, I decided to continue on and apply to do my degree through Open Polytechnic."
Much of the appeal of studying through Open Polytechnic for Katy was the fact she could do so with support from Taranaki Educare Training Trust.
"Once a week we meet up at the campus for a study group, and the tutors are always available to help us with discussing the reading and breaking down the questions we have. In fact the tutors even help us when it comes to administration stuff like re-enrolling for each part of the course. They are really supportive all the way through."
Katy says her success is definitely thanks to the support from the team at Educare.
"I couldn't have got this far without them, I recommend them to everyone I talk to who is thinking about a career in education."
Currently Katy is one of the students featured on billboards across Taranaki promoting the course.
"It's a bit strange having my face on a billboard, but I am more than happy to be helping encourage others to consider studying and training with Educare, as it has certainly helped me achieve my dreams."