A group of adult learners were recently treated to an inspiring presentation from an ex-graduate of their own programme.
Four years ago, Carolyn Collins joined the Training For You Women In Learning programme, taking the first steps on a journey of learning as part of her 10-year life plan.
The programme was created to help people build confidence and self-esteem, discover where they want to go in their life and career, and to transition towards further study. The programme is now called Tangata Toa (Strengthening People) and has been developed to include men.
When she joined the on-campus programme, Carolyn was working in a position that allowed her the time to restart her future into study to follow her dream in the helping sector - hoping to work with elderly people or people with special needs. A mother of five adult children and eight grandchildren, she has worked for eight years in a busy role caring for young people.
Carolyn spoke to a group of 13 current students at the Whanganui campus, many of whom could relate directly to Carolyn's story. At school, Carolyn felt she was "no good". While she coped well with mathematics, she was not good with words, and struggled with reading.
"I thought I was dumb." After spending many years in a mentally abusive relationship, she decided to create for herself a 10-year plan, and included learning in the mix. She wanted to reach a place where she was at least at the same level as her children, and would be able to read books to her grandchildren.
Training For You tutor Diane Glennie said Carolyn was actually very good at writing.
"Carolyn gained the highest possible grade on a writing assessment shortly after starting on the programme."
Carolyn discovered the answer to her reading challenges - she has Irlen Syndrome, and now wears specially-coloured lenses for reading. Irlen Syndrome is a problem with the brain's ability to process visual information, and tends to run in families.
One of Carolyn's daughters and her granddaughter also have Irlen Syndrome, however they are all affected by it differently - each using a different coloured lens in their glasses. Finding out about this condition was a revelation for Carolyn, particularly in regards to study.
"Now I love reading - there was a time when I never thought I would say that." Carolyn progressed from being "a very shy, inward person that would drop the kids at the school gate and leave" - her new learning adventure boosted her confidence.
"I used to want to hide in the back of the crowd. I would never have spoken in front of a group like this."
Another of Carolyn's daughters has learning needs, which forced Carolyn to speak out more to get the help her daughter required. As a result, Carolyn became more involved with school activities, including coaching netball teams.
After graduating from the Training For You programme, Carolyn knew she wanted to study counselling. "I've always loved being a helping person."
Through the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute of Tauranga, she recently completed a Level 6 Diploma in Counselling. It has been a two-and-a-half year project, and she has finished some degree papers as well. The course was done online except for two weeks of intensive workshops twice a year, at the Tauranga facility.
Carolyn professes she is "not good at computers". However, she managed to complete a full diploma course completely online.
Carolyn says she made lots of friends at Training For You and credits tutor Diane Glennie with being the inspiration for achieving her goals: "Diane encouraged us to go for what we wanted. Her feedback was always positive, and she gave us the encouragement that we could go to the next level."
Her motivation for learning came from wanting "to find out what my passion was. I wanted to make my own happiness, and be something more than just my children's mum."
Carolyn is thrilled to be qualified in her vocation of choice: "Being a counsellor, you get the privilege of hearing other people's stories, and you learn that life can be so different for everyone."
Training for You accepts enrolments on the Tangata Toa programme throughout the year. For more information visit www.trainingforyou.co.nz