Posted on 10 August 2020
When Masterton’s Mark Walker began his early childhood education studies with Open Polytechnic, he never imagined that he would be completing his degree and representing his peers as a 2016 graduation student speaker.
Open Polytechnic held the second of the 2016 national graduation ceremonies on 10 May 2016 at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre with 110 graduates, and 800 guests in attendance. The ceremony allowed students to don their cap and gowns to celebrate their achievements among their families, whanau, friends, peers and Open Polytechnic staff.
In his speech to fellow graduates, guests and Open Polytechnic staff, Mark touched on how motivating his study journey was, explaining that no matter how numerous or challenging external life factors became, he always had the freedom of a flexible education that he could adapt to fit his lifestyle with the help and support from Open Polytechnic lecturers and staff.
Mark and his wife Catherine began their study journeys together with Open Polytechnic when their daughter Ella was just nine months old. One of Mark’s goals was to join the growing number of positive male role models working in the early childhood education sector.
During his second year of study however, his daughter had to spend a lot of time in hospital, his mother battled breast cancer, and time got a little tighter with work and volunteering commitments alongside the impending arrival of his second child.
It was at this time that Mark turned to lecturer Jenny Malcolm for support, who assured him that “life happens”, which is a mentality that helped him through the rest of his studies. “I would soon realise that I could no longer revolve aspects of my life around study, study had to revolve around my life. If I had to put off a paper, that’s what I had to do, if I wanted to go part-time, I could,” said Mark.
In his closing remarks, Mark concluded that although the journey was not always an easy one, the satisfaction that he felt when he reached his education goal was priceless. “Life happens, but sometimes it can happen in the way you want it to…you make your own choices, your own memories, it’s purposeful, and it’s the one thing you can take control of.
Mark concluded his speech by congratulating his fellow students on their determination and perseverance in realising their dreams. “For my fellow graduates, you captured and ignited that spark to study, and surrounded yourself with those who support you, to go further, to create change, and to succeed.” Mark is now living his dream and is working full-time in early childhood education while also dedicating his time to volunteering at the Masterton Community Toy Library.
This year alone, around 807 students gained their diplomas and degrees nationwide from Open Polytechnic, while balancing their mainly part-time studies around work, family and other commitments.