Leigh-Jay Roil-Wimutu is the first to admit he used to be lazy.

But that changed when he challenged himself to enrol in an NCEA level 2 sport and recreation course at the YMCA.

Leigh-Jay was among the 47 students who graduated from the YMCA on Wednesday.

"I wanted to improve my fitness and get out of my comfort zone," he said.

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"It's a big achievement for me. I've been able to thrive."

Leigh-Jay has discovered a love of basketball, which he couldn't play at all before going to the YMCA.

"My basketball skills are heaps better now, but I still have a lot of work to do on them."

Now the 17-year-old has a bright future ahead of him: he plans to either apply to join the army, or study sport and exercise at Whanganui UCOL.

"I didn't even have an idea about my dream job," Leigh-Jay said.

Moniek Veuger-Rurawhe, 19, is graduating with a national certificate in computing.

"It was a good course. It was hard sometimes, but I had the tutors to help me."

Moniek plans to go on to UCOL to do further study.

YMCA educator Sarah Quinn said students who took part in the graduation ceremony had passed NCEA Levels 1 and 2, in a variety of different subjects.

She said YMCA provided students with an alternative to school.

"All of these students have left school, for whatever reason, but they still want to get an education.

"Having NCEA Levels 1 and 2 is quite important for their future - it means they'll be able to go somewhere like UCOL if they want to do more study. For some of them it's about their maturity, and being able to study."

Ms Quinn said the graduation had gone very well, with lots of family and friends attending.

"It's probably the biggest graduation ceremony we've had in a long time," she said.