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Bryan Lawton

Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science student

A photograph of UCOL student Bryan Lawton

“I felt like I had failed my degree.  To get back on the horse and finish this semester has been a huge achievement.  I’ve still got work to do but I’ve crossed the barrier that was standing in my way.”

Quitting is not a word in Bryan Lawton’s dictionary. As a second-year student in UCOL's Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science*, Bryan is already proving to the world that your past doesn’t choose your future for you, only you can do that. Despite the odds, Bryan is going for gold and showing his kids along the way that statistics are a number, you are not.

Growing up in Levin in a solo-parent family and experiencing trauma, Bryan had every chance to fall through the cracks. At an early age, Bryan was discovering exactly where people could let you down and often needed to rely on himself to get through hard times. After a series of decisions that could have cost him everything, Bryan still felt something inside him telling him to keep going and to know right from wrong.

“I don’t mind speaking out now about my story and advocating for those who have been in my position. This is my story. I was potentially destined for jail, even as a little kid I had people tell me that. But I knew right from wrong and I had all these little talents and tricks up my sleeve. I worked to keep my little brother safe, I would play the guitar and join in school shows. I just tried to keep doing stuff that made me happy.”

“I didn’t have anyone to show me how to budget, how to emotionally regulate or how to plan for success and that made it hard. I hit a low point last year but I stuck it out and sought support and I’m not looking back.”

Bryan first started his degree in 2010 but outside pressures competed heavily with his workload and saw him leave the course.  Coming back in 2016, Bryan struggled to make it work with financial pressure and lack of support. Shortly after, his daughters arrived on the scene and family life stepped up a notch. After bumping into Senior Exercise and Sport Lecturer, Farzanah Desai, at a local café, Bryan was encouraged that he was not a failure but actually incredibly capable. Thinking on it some more, Bryan decided to give this another shot, because he knew he could make a difference to his own life, the lives of his children and those he would meet along the way, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

“I can see myself on that stage. I can feel myself wearing that gown. I visualise it and when times are tough I hold onto it. Achieving this degree is huge for me – it’s for my kids, it’s breaking cycles and showing them that their Dad’s got a degree and they can too.”  

With a successful second year of Exercise and Sport Science under his belt, Bryan has also been gaining work experience through local organisation, Sport Manawatu who are thrilled with his success.  Here Bryan has been working with families and the elderly, implementing healthy habits and even gaining clients.

Sport Manawatu Supervisor Marcus Howie says “Bryan has been very enthusiastic and engaged. His time management is impeccable.  Bryan’s passion in this industry is showing through in this short time which is a credit to him.”

Bryan’s next step is to finish his degree and continue working with Sport Manawatu before going off to gain his teaching qualification so that he can continue to have a positive impact through teaching his knowledge and guiding young minds towards brighter futures.

“I plan to live the rest of my life smiling, doing a job that I love.”


*The Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science has been superceded by the Bachelor of Applied Science

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