Angelene (Ange) Hirini’s interest in becoming a social worker was sparked by a cluster of incidents involving children in Hawke’s Bay, which led to her enrolling in the Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) at EIT.
By the time Ange, 37, graduates with her degree as an EIT Hawke’s Bay Valedictorian at the Napier Municipal Theatre on Friday (9 September), she will have travelled a long road to achieve her goal.
At the age of seven Ange moved from Flaxmere to Clive, and Napier Intermediate to Colenso High School. After school she qualified, through another provider, to be a hairdresser, a role she has done for 18 years. During this time, she also had a second career in retail. It was while working in retail that Ange decided to venture into social work.
“I had been in retail for quite a while, and it was at a time when there was a cluster of events that involved young people here in Hawke’s Bay. I decided that there must be something more that I could do to support young people in our area. And so I went off to EIT and I did two foundation programmes.”
The programmes she did were the Certificate in Introduction to Social Sciences (CISS) and Certificate in Education and Social Science (CES).
“I was really nervous about going back into education as an adult, having not been in study for such a long time. Being able to ease myself in with those six months of foundation papers really helped, and definitely built my confidence to then carry on and do a full degree.”
That confidence continued into her honour’s degree, which she completed last year, and she is now working at Oranga Tamariki with the very people who inspired her to go into social work – children in need.
“I am enjoying it, but it’s definitely very challenging. The great thing is that I have a really supportive team and supportive leadership at Oranga Tamariki. Outside of that, I really just enjoy spending as much time as I can with my children.
Ange has two children – Chris, 20, and eight-year-old Eva Rose. She says that her studying while Chris was still at school motivated him to strive for success.
“There was a bit of competition between us while he was at high school, and I was at EIT to see who could get the best grades.”
That competition certainly worked as Chris completed the New Zealand Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Level 3) at EIT last year and also received an Excellence in Engineering award.
“It has been really good and this year we’re both in our first paid employment in our chosen pathways,” says Ange.
As for the Bachelor of Social Work at EIT, she cannot speak highly enough of it.
“In my experience, EIT provided an excellent blended learning environment – that mix between in-person lecturer delivered information, as well as the online offering.”
“In terms of the Honour’s degree, I feel we had extremely excellent pastoral support from our lecturers and our faculty team. I just couldn’t have asked for more from them.”
“Working through the COVID pandemic lockdowns while a student and on placement, on community probation and at Oranga Tamariki, was definitely a challenge. It wasn’t easy, but I did feel really supported by our faculty and our lecturer teams.”
While Ange does have a long-term goal of returning to EIT to complete a Master’s degree, she plans to enjoy this graduation. She was surprised when she was asked to be Valedictorian but was still working out the theme for her speech.
“I think I’m a little more comfortable with it. I’ve got lots of whānau coming from out of town, and I think after our ceremony we’ll all go out for a bit of a dinner, and I will also get together with some of my classmates to celebrate.”
Charlotte Chisnell, EIT Social Work Lecturer and Programme Coordinator, says: “Angelene is an exceptional student, who through her hard work and dedication to study has achieved a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) First Class.
“Throughout the degree Angelene has been very supportive of her peers, as well as being very well respected by colleagues and her tutors. She was a year group whānau representative, providing support and a student voice.”
“Angelene has gained a position at Oranga Tamariki in Napier where we are sure that she will continue to excel and promote social work values in this next exciting chapter of her life.”
“We are all very proud of Angelene and her peers who are graduating from the Bachelor of Social Work.”