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Kerry turned adversity into success

April 15, 2021

With three diplomas under her belt already, Kerry is now studying towards a degree.

Kerry McCutcheon had more than her fair share of challenges. In 2015, after a personal relationship ended, she decided to take charge of her situation and turn her life around. It was the start of an educational journey that recently saw her graduating with a Diploma in Environmental Management.

Plants and flowers have always been Kerry’s passion. Growing up, Kerry filled her room with pot plants. In her twenties, she gained a certificate in floriculture. Gardening brought her great joy, yet she never grew this interest beyond the hobby stage.

In 2016, she enrolled in a Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture at EIT’s Regional Learning Centre in Maraenui. “I needed to do something to get me out of that funk,” she says, looking back at turbulent times.

The mother-of-three put her foot on the gas and excelled. She absorbed knowledge like a sponge and volunteered many extra hours in a local garden. That year she was awarded top student of her class.

A work experience at a garden centre as part of her studies then led to a part-time job. For quite some time, Kerry was working while also studying towards two level 5 Diplomas in Horticulture (Kerry completed the strands in General Horticulture as well as Nursery Production). “It was a huge juggling act, but I love studying. I have always been a big reader and I’m interested in science. It’s great that I’m really using my brain. It gives me a sense of achievement. The tutors are very accommodating and know me and my quirks.”

Kerry has a disability which can impact on her studies. Last year she was a Student Association board member with a focus on representing EIT students with a disability.

Kerry doesn’t let her disability limit her academic performance. Last year she received top marks throughout. This year, she was among the students who won an EIT School of Primary Industries scholarship which covers the fees of her programme.

Her ultimate goal is to finish her environmental management degree and to find an interesting and challenging job. “A role where I can combine field and laboratory work would be great. There are so many exciting areas but I’m leaning towards biosecurity,” she says.

Kerry spends her free time in her quarter-acre garden and browsing second-hand shops and bookstores for new reading material. “I love reference books, encyclopaedias, and thrillers. My house is full of them although I don’t even have the time to read them all.”