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Graduates applauded for resilience at Ara’s final graduation ceremony

The spring graduation ceremony at Christchurch Arena today marks the last one for Ara before it transitions to Te Pūkenga on 1 November.

Two events on Friday saw more than 850 graduates cross the stage at the near-full arena to be awarded qualifications. These events typically award qualifications to around 500 students, but those whose ceremonies have been affected by Covid-19 lockdowns over the past two years were also invited to participate today.

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Graduates celebrate as they leave Ara's spring graduation ceremony at Christchurch Arena

Ara Acting Chief Executive Darren Mitchell noted in his closing remarks that these ceremonies celebrate a cohort of students who have completed their studies in “one of the most challenging and unique times in global history.”

“Hold on to the knowledge that you can weather the storms and that you can turn the most uncertain of times into - as you have shown us today -  a time of celebration and achievement.”

He urged students to continue seizing new opportunites and to be brave in their next steps.

Acting Ara Board Chair Melanie Taite-Pitama paid tribute to the students for their commitment.

“Your decision as students to study and learn can be the change in people’s lives, it can be the instigator of further learning and motivator of new meaning,” she said in her keynote address.

“I applaud you for your resilience, tenacity and strength to finish what you started.”

Chosen to address the student cohort at the morning ceremony, Renee Makea, a Diploma in Interior Design graduate, wanted to pay tribute to her tutors not only for their support on campus but also as the students make their first foray into new careers.

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Renee Makea addresses those gathered

“It’s two-fold really. Firstly, they share real insights as to the demands of the industry and they bring that urgency to their teaching.  Secondly, having been in the industry themselves, they bring that authenticity to the course,” Makea said.

Now living the dream working at a top Canterbury design house, Makea told those gathered it felt a long way from scouring the property pages for open homes and show homes to visit with her mum as a child.

“For me, I loved my year studying at Ara. It was creative, challenging and immensely rewarding. Above all, it bridged the gap between a young girl’s dream and reality.”

Another student speaker, Feleti Poepoe Pesefea, graduating with a Master of Creative Practice and now teaching in his chosen field, paid tribute to whānau.

“They are the biggest motivator for me and are at the forefront of what I have been able to do.  I’d put their names on the qualifications if I could,” Feleti said.

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Spring Graduation is also significant for the Department of Applied Health with the first cohort of students accepting their Post Graduate Diploma in Osteopathy on Friday.

Allied Health Manager James Jowsey said these graduating students represent ten years of dedicated work developing and expanding the programme with, in recent times, the additional challenges of Covid-19.

It is now the only avenue of study in New Zealand for students to gain the necessary skills and knowledge required to apply for registration to practice with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand.

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Kris Esguerra pictured with fellow Post Graduate Diploma in Osteopathy graduates Nicole Agent, Donna Cornelius, and Keren Wright

“We’re the pioneers,” graduate Kris Esguerra says with pride.

“It’s been a team effort by Ara and the whole osteopathy community in Canterbury to form this course and to guide us and mentor us. I’m very fortunate and thankful.”

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