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Year of success at Whare Āwhina

“Remarkable” work experience placements, a profitable social enterprise, wins on the sports field [and bowling lanes], and finding their voice, both in class and on stage: It’s been an action-packed 2022 for the rangatahi of Wairarapa College’s Whare Āwhina.

Whānau and friends packed out WaiCol’s black box theatre last Wednesday morning for Whare Āwhina’s end-of-year prizegiving – which saw students recognised for academic achievements, excellence in sport and the arts, and service to others.

In between presentations, students treated supporters to a varied programme of entertainment – from dramatic readings to original music.

The prizegiving was also a graduation ceremony for four of the students – Sam Armour, William Feenstra, Josh Taylor and Trystan van de Loo – who are leaving school to pursue volunteer work and paid employment.

Whare Āwhina, which moved into a new purpose-built facility at the start of the year, caters for rangatahi with physical, learning and sensory disabilities.

The centre supports students in gaining NCEA credits, developing life skills, and contributing to the community, particularly through its successful work experience programme – which, this year, partnered with 13 businesses and community organisations.

In her speech, head teacher Amanda Kawana read from a long list of milestones from 2022: competing in various regional sporting events, organising two discos, attending mainstream classes, entering photography competitions, and raising $700 for charity via the Young Enterprise Scheme [YES].

“The school year seems to get busier. More subjects to teach, more sporting events to attend, more work experience placements to find, more variety for our learners. I want them to experience it all,” she said.

She reminded whānau that “a child’s success cannot always be measured on paper” – and praised her students for their personal growth throughout the year.

“Through my team’s eyes, student success can be measured through things like contributing more to class discussions. Independently working in the kitchen, and using their manners. Confidence in the water. Trying new experiences. Finding their own voice.

“My amazing team wants to develop the students’ individual skills and teach them to be as independent as possible. Even if that means going back to basics.

“Whare Āwhina translates as ‘house of support’. And that’s exactly what we are.”

At the prizegiving, five major individual awards were presented, in recognition of academic progress, personal development, sporting and artistic success, and embodying school values.

The centre’s bowling team, Whare Āwhina Whero, received the trophy for the highest score at the Wellington AWD [Athletes with Disabilities] Ten-Pin Bowling Competition – marking the fourth time Whare Āwhina has taken home this award.

Students were acknowledged for gaining credits towards the New Zealand Certificate in Skills for Living for Supported Learners – including Trystan van de Loo, who completed all 149 credits.

The four graduates – Sam, William, Josh and Trystan – received farewell gifts from the staff, who wished them well in their future endeavours: Work at the Carterton Salvation Army Store, Lansdowne Retirement Village, Tunnicliffe Builders, and Capital Precut Solutions, respectively.

Another highlight was the presentation of a cheque to the Retired Working Dogs NZ Charitable Trust – the recipient of the $700 profit from the students’ YES business, selling bath bombs and body scrubs.

Trustee Marie-Claire Andrews said the donation would go towards “Christmas dinner” for the dogs in the trust’s care.

Entertainment included performances from Whare Āwhina’s kapa haka group, a dramatic interpretation of The Gruffalo – complete with costuming and puppetry – Christmas-themed comedy from students Lauchie Dunbar and Taylor Moore, and contemporary dance from Alex Walsh and Ava Saba.

Receiving thunderous applause was Anaru Voice, who performed an original song, “This Is Me”, alongside music therapist Pip Algie.

Anaru’s song detailed some of his aspirations for the years ahead – including taking a date to the school formal, being a prefect, and getting a job at an ice cream parlour.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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