A passion for helping others has taken Hannah Soper from working in a hair salon to life as a social worker.
The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology graduate earned a Bachelor in Applied Social Sciences in Social Work yesterday.
Born and raised in Wellington, Ms Soper, 27, spent a decade working as a hairdresser before becoming a student.
She came to Nelson four years ago for a change of pace, and started at NMIT three years ago.
She said social work was a natural progression from hairdressing, as every day she was working with people from diverse backgrounds.
It had been good to take the skills she already had and transfer them to a new career.
"I do really like talking to people and finding out about their lives and plans and dreams. I have always been that way."
Ms Soper was among hundreds of NMIT students who were set to graduate last year, before the December floods forced the ceremony to be cancelled.
Her family had flown down, and she had spent hours the previous day picking up her regalia, only to find out the ceremony had been called off.
Not being able to graduate with her friends from the diploma course was sad, she said, but she was glad that she was continuing on with the degree course, so she could graduate this year.
"It was disappointing, but good in a way, because this is my real graduation. So I don't mind so much."
Ms Soper is the daughter of Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper, and said having family members working as journalists, and as educators and psychologists, had contributed to her sense of social justice.
"Having a social conscience, having an awareness of people in different situations."
Although at the moment she was interested in working on "the front line", she was going to try different areas of social work to see what she enjoyed, and might eventually get involved in formulating policy.
Nelson had been a great environment to study in, she said.
Her course had benefited from having older students who were on their second or third career choice, and were more focused on learning, she said.
She also completed placements with alternative education provider Youth Nelson, Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street, and Child, Youth and Family.
Ms Soper advised prospective social workers to keep an open mind and not let their past experiences or biases influence their approach to the job.
They also needed to be passionate about the career, she said.
- The Nelson Mail
Does Nelson deserve to be classed as a city?Related story: (See story)