HomeNews‘Surprised, But Thrilled’ Two Valedictorians For UCOL Graduation

‘Surprised, But Thrilled’ Two Valedictorians For UCOL Graduation

By UCOL on Tuesday, 26 March 2024

Lucy Montgomery

Classmates, friends, whānau and a few tears - UCOL Te Pūkenga gathered them all as 40 ākonga (students) celebrated their graduation.

Across the four campuses in Horowhenua, Manawatū, Wairarapa, and Whanganui, a total of 1,329 graduates will be eligible to cross the stage.

Among the Horowhenua graduates were this year's Valedictorians - Lucy Montgomery, who completed her Level 4 Certificate in Beauty Therapy and Kayla Clark who finished the Level 4 Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care.

"I absolutely loved it," says Clark. "I thought the topics we did were so knowledgeable and fun, and I've used some of the techniques with my own son."

To be named as a Valedictorian was the icing on the cake. "I didn't expect it at all! It feels amazing, and it's great to be graduating. You feel like you've accomplished something real."

As a young mum, Clark felt the flexibility of UCOL was a huge advantage. "The class times, campus being close to home - it really enabled me to balance study with caring for my son. The teachers are just so accommodating and helpful, responding to me whenever they could - if I put up a question on the forum I'd even get replies on weekends. The smaller classes meant more one-on-one learning, which I really liked."

While Clark is excited to get a job in the childcare industry, Montgomery came to her classes with a different approach. Already the owner of the successful Lucy's Bins, she's a lifelong learner who enjoys study.

Kelly Clark.jpeg

"I just really love learning," says Montgomery. "Most people just think you have to do courses to get a job, but I'm doing it purely for my own satisfaction, and I think more people should."

Beauty therapy wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but after a chat at the UCOL Open Day she decided to give it a go and was hooked. "I've been running my business for 9 years and I love it, but I also came on the course because I needed something for me too, something fun that I could use in my day to day.

"A lot of courses are partially online so you can still do other things - we were onsite three days a week and I'd work in the mornings. One day I had an eyelash tinting assessment, and then I was out on the truck doing pickups an hour later!"

What unifies the two graduates is that their courses have encouraged them on to further study. Montgomery is doing a Level 6 laser skin care qualification, while Clark has begun her ECE Diploma. "I'm loving it so far," says Clark. "There's a lot of information but it's such an inviting environment. I want to go all the way and finish my Bachelors."

During the graduation ceremony, the largest Horowhenua cohort was for those who had completed their Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Carpentry) Level 3.

Jasmine Groves, Operations Lead at UCOL says she is delighted with the success of their Horowhenua Valedictorians, as well as the accomplishments of all their graduates.

"This is such a special moment for our ākonga - to have their efforts recognised and celebrate all that they have achieved with whānau and friends. It can feel like an ending but it's actually the opposite. This is us celebrating the beginning of their careers, and all that they will go out and do with the skills they have learned."

"You know it's interesting," adds Clark. "This is nothing like what I thought I'd be doing! I thought I'd go into an automotive course but I ended up finding my love in childcare. That's what I'd tell others if they're thinking about it - don't be afraid, the UCOL team are willing to help you and you should give it a go."