Two years ago, if you told Kaya Grace that she would be a graduate of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, she might not have believed you.
The Porirua mum says she struggled with her confidence and was wary of opening herself up to unfamiliar settings. That was until she started studying rongoā Māori at the Porirua campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
“It’s been a journey of self-discovery and self-healing. I suffered quite a lot with anxiety and bouts of depression throughout my life, so I’ve looked to heal myself in all ways possible.”
Kaya completed the Certificate in Rongoā in 2021 and last year she proudly completed the Diploma in Rongoā, graduating alongside her peers and supported by her whānau.
As someone who didn’t complete secondary school, Kaya was sceptical about how her learning journey would go at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, but she was happily surprised with how much she achieved.
“I didn’t know that I could fit within an education system but I’ve achieved something academically and I’m proud of myself for that.”
Kaya credits the kaiako (teachers) she has had throughout her time studying, as well as her fellow tauira (students) who have shared the challenging yet rewarding learning journey with her.
“The kaiako were fantastic and there was so much encouragement from everyone. In the first 3 months I didn’t say much in class, but a safe space was created and that made it okay to share our vulnerabilities.”
It was a longing to reconnect with her taha Māori (Māori heritage) and te reo that led Kaya on a path to studying rongoā. And although she has completed her Diploma, she hopes to grow in te ao Māori (the Māori world) for both her and her whānau, especially her 3 daughters.
“I feel like the connection to the taiao (environment) is how I really connect with being Māori. I’m just beginning my journey, so I just want to absorb all things Māori to help me get to the place I aspire to be. The growth in my whānau through engaging in study has been amazing.”
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