Doors Open After Gaining Degree

May 8, 2018

Completing her Bachelor of Arts (Māori) felt “surreal”, says Janelle Whitiora, who came close to giving up on her degree.

Janelle was excited about her recent graduation and she is enjoying using te reo Māori in her new job as school secretary for EIT’s Te Ūranga Waka.

Tertiary study was a challenging journey for the mother-of-four.

Of Ngāti Porou descent, she grew up in Paekākāriki and attended Kāpiti College. After stints living in Sydney and on the Gold Coast, she moved to Hawke’s Bay to be near her older sister Renée. She was also keen for her daughters to attend St Joseph’s Māori Girls College in Greenmeadows.

Settling back in New Zealand wasn’t easy, however. To support her family, Janelle had to go onto the benefit for six or seven months and even after securing full-time work as a merchandiser she felt something had to change if she was going to help herself and her children.

Janelle learnt te reo Māori at high school and understood what her Māori-speaking grandfather was saying.

“He started the first kura kaupapa in Dannevirke,” she says.

Wanting to speak te reo and to “discover herself”, she enrolled at EIT. While she enjoyed the study, Janelle came close to giving up towards the end of her second degree year after her partner was made redundant and she was struggling to manage a part-time job and family and degree commitments.

“I was falling asleep in class and one day former lecturer Ahuriri Houkamau found me crying.”

Ahuriri urged Janelle to keep going, helped prioritise her study commitments and pointed out that, having completed four semesters, she had only to study for two more to finish her degree.

“I feel very grateful to him for what he said that day.”

Now, having gained her qualification, she is finding the universe opening up for her.

“It’s funny how many opportunities come up when you come to the end of your degree,” she says. “So many doors open, which they wouldn’t if you didn’t have a degree.”