Determined teen student of the year

Drive to succeed transforms life

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012
YMCA Student of the Year Shaquille Knowles
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ
YOUNG ACHIEVER: Student of the Year Shaquille Knowles, 18, at the YMCA student graduation ceremony at the New Plymouth District Council.

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When Shaquille Knowles left high school last year there were very few NCEA qualifications to her name.

But a drive to succeed has transformed the 18-year-old from struggling high school student to YMCA Student of the Year.

About 40 students graduated from YMCA education programmes in a celebration at the New Plymouth District Council yesterday. Ms Knowles was among them, having completed its youth guarantee programme with flying colours.

She received the Overall Student of the Year award and before the ceremony, collected the NPDC Community Service Award for Young Achiever of the Year.

She said yesterday's presentation had been a great way to end a stressful but rewarding year.

"I'm lucky I've been able to accomplish all my level 2 requirements and a few extras so it's been really good." Miss Knowles said she would now look at pursuing further studies in tourism, or enter the work- force.

YMCA education manager Eric Kneepkens said Miss Knowles had demonstrated a huge amount of drive to get to where she was, since finishing high school without any level 1 qualifications.

Some students struggled when they first entered the programmes after leaving school with few achievements, and a feeling that perhaps they did not belong in education, Mr Kneepkens said.

"For a lot of students this offers more of a relaxed vibe.

"My philosophy is to provide a student with every opportunity and it's up to them if they want to take it or not."

He said he was proud of not only the educational achievements of those who graduated yesterday, but their personal development.

"With a lot of youth at this age, it's about seeing the change in their communication skills and how they feel about themselves as well," Mr Kneepkens said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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