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Fiona Jenks is living proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams, face your fears, and gain a tertiary qualification.
As a single grandmother (“nana”) raising her seven-year-old granddaughter, Fiona successfully completed the New Zealand Certificate in Arts and Design at NMIT last year.
It’s a remarkable achievement for a woman who left school with no qualifications and had limited technical and academic experience.
“I’m not a technical person,” Fiona says. “I had to learn how to navigate my way around the computer.”
Studying in later life proved to be a steep learning curve for Fiona, but she embraced the challenge.
She says she’s always been creative, dabbling in quilting, sewing, knitting, ceramics and making wedding cakes over the years.
After doing various jobs she realised that she didn’t want to spend any more time doing things that she wasn’t passionate about.
So with the help of NMIT’s friendly support staff, she enrolled to study Arts and Design in 2019 to pursue her creative calling.
Because of her commitment to caring for her granddaughter, Fiona took advantage of NMIT’s flexible learning options and studied part-time, taking a year to complete the Certificate programme.
“I took the slower route, but it worked really well for us, for my granddaughter and I.”
When she started, she was intending to focus on developing her photography skills.
But the beauty of the Certificate in Arts and Design is that students are exposed to a wide range of creative disciplines, including graphic design, object design (jewellery and sculpture), and image making, as well as critical thinking and communication.
Fiona found that she loved jewellery making, sculpture, and even enjoyed her first brush with painting and drawing.
“Bring in your strengths and the course will encourage those, but it will also widen your skills and you will learn things you hadn’t even thought you would learn. That’s what I found.”
She says coming back to study as a mature student was “a huge deal”, but she was impressed by how much support she got from NMIT’s staff and tutors.
Fiona has continued her studies this year, enrolling in the Diploma in Arts and Design, which doubles as the first year of the degree programme.
She says studying has helped her to believe in herself. She’s set her sights on further study and wants to use her creative skills to make an income.
“NMIT has given me more confidence in myself,” she says. “I'd like to get my Bachelor degree, but I’m just taking it one year at a time.”