Looking after two young children and working part-time cleaning motel rooms hasn't kept solo mother Jessica Shirley from her goal of becoming a professional photographer.
After six years of part-time study, including nearly two years of a three year degree programme at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), the livewire student is seeing a bright future.
Jessica has won an assignment photographing and designing fashion pages for Admire, Nelson's newest lifestyle magazine, produced by the Nelson Mail. She has done two already, a third next month and possibly more to come.
The 33 year-old credits tutors "who go above and beyond the call of duty" for giving her the skills and confidence to step out of the classroom into the real world of a paid fashion photographer.
"It's blown my mind that I can get a job in Nelson doing what I love", says Jessica who is thankful for NMIT's flexible teaching options. She has been able to juggle her study for the Bachelor of Visual Arts with the demands of raising an eight year old daughter and six year old son and her part time cleaning job.
"It's absolutely full on, but worth it!
"I've had amazing ongoing support from both Will Soward and Klaasz Breukel. I can't thank those tutors enough. It's not just a job for them - they love what they do and are really knowledgeable and supportive.
"When I got the job at Admire I wanted advice on shooting at night and also from Klaasz on a colour mode problem I initially had. Both of them went out of their way.
"With the new training schemes at NMIT I was able to study over the summer and I've had the support to take my photography assignments further – to go at my own level".
While the assignments for Admire have given Jessica her big break, she says it hasn't been by accident. "The tutors at NMIT know which employers are looking for people and they can put forward students like me. One thing leads to another thing".
Creative Industries Tutor and Co-ordinator Kay van Dyk says students are encouraged and helped to get into "real life" situations. "It's integral to their experiences, their study, to connect it with real situations and liaising with clients. Building up a portfolio of published work is great for their CV too".