Destiny Ranger and her son, Ahurei Waaka. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Determined and forging a way forward

Hayley Gastmeier

Some may say that Destiny Ranger has more on her plate than your average teenager.

At 19, she’s a mother, a partner, and a full-time student with many interests and enthusiasm to burn.

She holds down a job as well – and it seems she is excelling under each of her many hats.

Destiny is gaining her NCEA credits as a student at the Teen Parent Unit (TPU).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Destiny Ranger, right, and her baby Ahurei Waaka at Pukaha Mt Bruce. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

And in the weekends, she works as a tour guide at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre, sharing the cultural history of the reserve and stories about the tangata whenua of the area.

But the path Destiny was on a short while ago wasn’t necessarily one to success.

“I was just too free,” she admits.

“I didn’t really have any cares.”

She said she was “in a dead zone” and took living as her “own boss” to a whole new level.

It was only when she fell pregnant with her now three-month-old son, Ahurei Waaka, that she decided to really make a go of things.

“Becoming pregnant pretty much bucked my ideas up.

“I had another life to raise and had the responsibility of making sure my son grows up with everything he needs.”

Destiny, of Masterton, left school when she was 15 and went into full time work, including as a cleaner and in supermarkets and cafes.

She was working in a factory when she found out she was pregnant at 18, after an earlier miscarriage.

Almost a year after starting at the TPU, Destiny said she was pleased she decided to finish her education and be a role model for her son.

“I want him to see that education is important. It gets you places.”

Destiny wants to continue her education when she leaves the TPU at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a Māori university.

She and her partner, Heremaiah, both speak to their son in te reo and she is passionate about sharing the Maori culture with others.

That’s one of the reasons she’s loving her job at Pukaha.

Destiny said Pukaha general manager Emily Court, who works as a mentor with TPU students, approached them about a potential job as tour guide on the new cultural tour – Te Hīkoi o Pūkaha.

“She understands how hard it is to get your foot in the door after having a baby, Destiny said.

“So then I applied for the job when my son was a week old.

“The next week they got me in for an interview and they had offered me the job even before I’d left.”

Destiny said she then worked hard to learn all the knowledge she needed to be able to lead the tour.

She said being one of four tour guides meant she had flexibility for her family’s needs.

“It’s really good, if my son’s sick I can just take the day off.

“But I work pretty much every weekend and it’s been awesome because I love being outdoors and involving tikanga Maori into it as well has just been amazing.”

On the tour, she shares with visitors the history of Rangitāne and the area of Pukaha.

“We tell them stories about our birds and insects and all our lovely other creatures out there.”

Afterwards, tour groups receive kawakawa tea and fry bread.

Destiny said her achievements were down to the support she received at the TPU.

She said students were given the time and tools they needed to gain qualifications and get their first aid certificates and driver licences.

“There’s a lot more one-on-one time with teachers.

“At school there was so many people in the class and you don’t get the help and support that you need.

“Here the teachers are happy to help you out, even when it’s outside their work time.”

TPU manager Prue Smith said Destiny was a real go-getter.

“She says yes to any opportunity and puts her hand up and says, ‘I’ll give it a go’.

“We’re really proud of the fact that she wants to get ahead.”

Youth coach David Winter, of Wairarapa Safer Community Trust, said he had seen a massive change in Destiny from when she started at the TPU to now.

“She wasn’t really committed to helping herself or anything in general,” he said.

“And now she’s very mature. We’ve seen such a difference in her attitude within a few months.

“She’s happy all the time and it’s really nice to see.”