Beauche McGregor at work on her laptop. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE
What price is a dream?
For Beauche McGregor it’s $33,000.
That’s the amount the Masterton 24-year-old needs to fund 10 hours a week of assistance for reading and writing to complete her Bachelor of Social Work degree at the Open Polytechnic.
McGregor, 24, was born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy – she’s in a wheelchair she controls with her head, and has limited use of her right hand.
But as she says on her Givealittle page, “there is nothing wrong with my mind or my mouth”.
That’s obvious within a minute of meeting her.
She took on the social work degree a couple of years ago, and admits she “fluffed around a bit, as a lot of people do” in her first year, “but now I’ve really knuckled down . . . I’ve made a goal to complete the degree in trimester two, 2020”.
She uses a handheld mouse to operate her laptop, with a screen keyboard.
“It’s pretty tedious but I like it,” she said of the system, which she uses in preference to voice recognition.
“It means I don’t have to keep going back and fix mistakes. And I can use it anywhere.
“With the voice recognition you’ve really got to be somewhere pretty quiet.”
But with the amount of reading required for the course, a reader/writer saves a lot of time — “I consider myself an audio learner”.
McGregor is frank when asked the question of how she expects to work effectively if she needs help with completing her studies.
“I knew this question was coming,” she says.
“A social worker’s role is to be out there with the people, not dealing with paperwork.
“Obviously there will be paperwork, but it will be behind the scenes.”
As she said, there’s nothing wrong with her brain or mouth.
McGregor receives four hours of assistance a week through the Open Polytechnic, but wants the further 10 hours a week to meet her target of completing the remaining 13 papers in two-and-a-half years.
She expects to have racked up $20,000 in student loans by the time she graduates, and increasing that isn’t an option.
In the past, she has received funding support from the Government’s Workbridge programme, but has reached the $15,000 maximum for one person.
In any case, she says, that wouldn’t have lasted long enough to cover the whole degree.
McGregor is one of a group of Masterton students studying for the degree who get together at Ucol – it was they who pushed her to go public with her funding plight.
“I didn’t want to do it – normally, I keep to myself – but I came to the realisation that if I didn’t do anything, if I didn’t change anything, my dream wouldn’t come true,” she said.
“It looks like a huge amount [$33,000], but I’ve got 13 papers left to do – if you break it down it isn’t horrendous.”
Her original plan was to study at Massey University, but it was not possible to find a suitable house in Palmerston North.
“After a bit of late-night surfing on the net I found the Open Polytechnic – social work really jumped out at me.
“Because of my own situation, I’ve always been aware of other people’s situations.”
Her reader/writer, or academic support worker, will help with reading aloud set readings, research, and note-taking, as well as typing what McGregor dictates for assignments.
They’ll also help with physical tasks such as setting up her computer and “putting my glasses on”.
“And just to be clear – the end results are always mine,” she says.
Once qualified, she says she will be able to support herself financially “and ultimately save the state a considerable amount of money”.
McGregor’s Givealittle page is at: givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-beauche-become-a-social-worker