Overcoming Obstacles

August 22, 2017

Noell Ratapu’s ‘make a wish’ shot shows scars from her spinal injury. The EIT student feels she has turned her disability into a strength.

Six months ago, Noell Ratapu felt a disability meant she wouldn’t be able to pursue tertiary study.

The 18-year-old has spinal muscular atrophy and has largely been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 11.

Noell planned moving to Auckland to study makeup artistry but was discouraged after an on-site visit.

“They said it would be too hard with my wheelchair and I wouldn’t be good in the industry if I tired easily. It made me feel useless.”

Now a full-time student at EIT Tairāwhiti, Noell has completed the level 3 Certificate in Introduction to Social Services and recently started the level 4 Certificate in Education and Social Services.

After gaining this qualification, she will be eligible for entry into the 2018 Bachelor of Social Work programme.

“Social work is not something I thought I would end up doing but I definitely want to help others like me.”

Noell found EIT disability advisor Karen Albert very understanding, and felt confident that her needs were understood.

Karen says the aim of student support advisors is to provide a platform of equal opportunity.

“There is an expectation that we act in each student’s best interest.”

Noell could not be happier.