Being awarded a Friendship Award at St John's Hill School was a harbinger for Amishel Kumar, who is well known as Sunny.
"I've always cared for people. I don't care about colour, gender, or age. I've always been friendly," says Sunny, who recently completed his Bachelor of Nursing at UCOL Te Pūkenga Whanganui.
Sunny's early years were filled with travel. Born in the Ba in the Fiji Islands, the Kumar family lived in Nadi, the Marshall Islands, and Australia before making their way to Whanganui. Soon after their arrival, Sunny started at Carlton School and moved to St John's Hill School in year 3, Whanganui intermediate school, then to Whanganui High School.
"It was tough. English was a second language, so I took separate classes to help improve my English. I was bullied a lot. Being called names and racial comments based on my skin colour was very scary."
Sunny says he met his childhood mate/brother at St John's Hill School, who was always by his side. He had a very strong support system including parents and close friends.
At Whanganui High School, Sunny was a footballer and a cricketer. He represented the Central Region in Under 17 Football and still plays for the Whanganui Athletic Football Club.
As his high school years drew to a close, Sunny didn't know what he wanted to do next. He considered becoming a police officer, but it was the U-Skills Health program that caught his eye. In his final year of high school, Sunny spent four days a week at school and one day at UCOL studying health.
"I found nursing, and it's almost like I've always wanted it all my life," he says. "I have turned my hobby into my profession."
After completing high school in 2019 and graduating from the U-Skills programme, Sunny entered the Bachelor of Nursing in 2020 and started a part-time job at Kowhainui Rest Home.
"Working in a rest home was a pivotal moment. It taught me a lot about basic care, and I've intertwined that with my nursing practice."
The Bachelor of Nursing includes undergraduate placements across various settings so ākonga (learners) gain a full breadth of experience.
"From aged care to mental health, to primary health and medical/surgical, the placements kept getting better. I was able to do more tasks as each year passed," says Sunny.
Sunny completed his 9-week transition placement in the medical ward at Whanganui Hospital.
"It was a pleasant working environment. Everyone was so respectful and caring of one another, making learning easier."
In January 2023, Sunny started working in the medical ward under the watchful eye of a preceptor (nursing mentor) as part of Whanganui Te Whatu Ora's Nurse Entry to Practice (NETP) program. The program sees new graduates being guided through their first year as nurses and completing a paper at Victoria University, which counts towards a master's degree.
Sunny's most extensive advice for those looking at a nursing career is: "Ask for help. UCOL staff knows where the resources are, have time to help you, and will do what they can for you."
"Always strive for excellence, and success will follow."