Latecomer to school excels at university
Faith Jeremiah found herself pregnant at 16 after growing up without ever going to school.
But today she will graduate from the University of Canterbury with a bachelor of commerce degree with first-class honours and will begin a PhD in franchising next year.
Jeremiah, the second-oldest of 13 children, was brought up in a family with "unusual beliefs" and never went to school.
She left home at 15 and soon fell pregnant with her son, who is now 12.
"When I had my son at 16 I realised I wanted to give him a good future," she said.
She enrolled at Karanga Mai, Kaiapoi High School's centre for young parents.
When Jeremiah started Karanga Mai she could read, write, add and subtract, "and that was where it stopped".
After six years of hard work, starting at primary school level, she left with National Certificate of Educational Achievement levels 1 and 2 and the Clayton Cosgrove Cup of Excellence, and headed to the University of Canterbury.
Jeremiah said she initially found university scary, with "an immense amount of catching up to do, socially and academically".
"My grades progressed from C to A+ as I gained confidence and experience," she said.
When she fell pregnant with her second son, now 3, she continued to study fulltime.
"We had an exam on the day my son was due and my waters broke that morning, so I had to miss the exam," she said.
After her unusual route to academic success, her children's education is a priority.
"When my first son started school we looked at five different schools. He also attends the computer club at Canterbury University . . . I want to see my children succeed, do well and be happy."
Jeremiah will begin her PhD next year, looking into the relationship between starting a franchise business and the longevity of a business.
"I also hope to initiate a franchising tertiary institution in New Zealand, similar to Griffith University in Australia," she said.