Trio's talents flower against the odds

Talents flower against the odds

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013
NCEA scholarship winners
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ
MULTI-TALENTED: Top, Ed Walker won a William Wallace Award for vocational study while keen dancers Derna Rangirangi, bottom right, and Ezra Shield each won a scholarship for tertiary study.

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Derna Rangirangi couldn't see herself finishing high school, and her foster sister Ezra Shield struggled with her reading.

But both 17-year-olds were student leaders in their final year of school, fitting dancing and other extra-curricular activities around study for NCEA level 3.

The teens, along with fellow Hamiltonian Ed Walker, also 17, are part of the Child, Youth and Family care system and have made massive transformations.

Ed missed out on some schooling at a young age, but has now completed a wananga course and is moving on to carpentry.

All three have been recognised for succeeding despite a tough start with a William Wallace Award - a scholarship for exceptional young people in or just out of care, which helps them train for a career.

The girls are foster sisters, and naturally shared their delight when they heard the news.

"I was sleeping," says Rangirangi. "Ezra came running down the hallway shouting out my name. She's like ‘you got a scholarship', just jumped all over me."

"I didn't jump all over you, I jumped all over your bed," says Shield.

Each got $3000 to put into tertiary education. Ezra will study media arts and keep up her dancing, and Derna isundecided.

Today, they and Walker will make their first trip on a plane to the Wellington award ceremony.

Both girls credit their turnaround - personal and at school - to "mum", their foster carer Gaylene Park.

Derna had blossomed in the five years Ms Park had cared for her.

"Over the years she's been here we have watched that bud bloom into this beautiful flower."

"She has a voice now," adds Ezra, reminding her sister how quiet she was when she arrived.

Ezra, who has been with Ms Park about 10 years, has undergone her own transformation.

She knew what she wanted, and aimed for it.

"I knew right from early on that she would be going places," Ms Park said.

Now the mantelpiece in their home holds many of the highlights from the girls' time with Ms Park: dance awards and medals, and high school honours certificates.

Ed is also always on the go.

In his six months at Hillcrest Home, he taught himself to play multiple instruments by ear, completed a wananga course, and started the carpentry course his $2000 vocational award will go towards.

Ed modestly admitted he simply "got bored" with his constant new ventures, but Hillcrest Home team leader Patrick Bain saw it differently - he didn't move on until he'd mastered something, and needed a new challenge.

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"He's like a sponge. He just goes at adults and the people supporting him so that he can learn more, and more, and more . . . he never just rests on one thing."

Ed says while at Hillcrest Home he got used to people telling him what to do, got better at asking for help, and found a path for his future.

"Just taught me basics really, that my mum couldn't teach me . . . and getting fed properly," he adds with a laugh. Rugby league is his dream, with hopes of making it into an Australian club or the NRL.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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