Speaking to a crowd of more than 100 people in Christchurch recently, a proud Wyndham graduate’s message was ‘‘You’re never too old and it is never too late to try something else’’.
Bachelor of social work graduate Rihi Bloxham was chosen as the student speaker at the Open Polytechnic graduation ceremony for the South Island last month.
‘‘I spoke about my own journey and what motivated me to go back to education, especially as I’m quite a mature student,’’ she said.
‘‘For me it was finding a sense of purpose. As a single parent . . .I saw education as a real key to improving my circumstances, helping me to provide more financially for my children.’’
It was her first time public speaking at that level.
She experienced a wave of different emotions leading up to the big moment, she said.
Initially, she felt anxious when she received the email inviting her to speak, followed by shock and surprise.
‘‘One of the first natural questions was ‘why you?’’’
She was told Open Polytechnic was looking for someone who could articulate what it meant to graduate, both on a personal level as well as on behalf of the other graduates.
‘‘I started to feel really humbled and then I started to feel quite honoured,’’ she said.
However she also felt the pressure to represent her fellow graduates and do them justice.
‘‘I thought about it quite deeply and quite collectively. I wanted my own journey to include what I thought other graduates may have felt in that journey too.’’
She was a firm believer that sometimes she needed to push herself outside her comfort zone, but there was also a more personal reason she agreed to speak.
‘‘I also had a very significant whanau member, who has passed, and she always encouraged me to talk. She more than encouraged me. She almost made me promise her to never let a talking opportunity go by.’’
So she decided to ‘‘feel the fear and do it anyway’’, she said.
She found the experience empowering and was relieved and proud to have made the speech.
‘‘I think it was received well and I say that because the next day, when I was at the airport, some random person came up to me and said ‘That was a great speech and well delivered’.’’