Karanga Mai excellence

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Kaiapoi’s young parents college has overcome the odds to receive national recognition.
The Karanga Mai Young Parents’ College and Early Learning Centre, which has battled funding shortfalls in its bid to give young mums a second chance at education, won the 2016 Focus Prize at the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards announced in Auckland on Tuesday evening.
The college took home a trophy, certificate and a cheque for $20,000.
Karanga Mai has been based at Kaiapoi High School since 1992 and is a partnership between the school and Wellbeing North Canterbury.
‘‘For us to be able to achieve this as a non-profit organisation and with a significant funding gap is just amazing,’’ Wellbeing North Canterbury manager Deirdre Ryan says.
‘‘But this is a really good example of achieving excellence. I couldn’t be more proud of the team.’’
Early learning centre team leader Jacinta McInerney says having the young parent’s college and early childhood centre on the one site and working together is ‘‘ground-breaking’’.
She says the results speak for themselves, with a number of students going on to tertiary study.
A panel of experts selected Karanga Mai for the award and said: ‘‘this entity showed an absolute focus on the wellbeing of teen parents and their children’’.
Ms McInerney says Karanga Mai’s focus is ‘‘looking after the students holistically, so wellbeing is important’’.
This makes the collaboration with Wellbeing North Canterbury, which runs the early learning centre, a good fit, Ms Ryan says.
‘‘It’s (wellbeing) a really important part of this collaborative partnership.
‘‘The young people here are surrounded by other wellbeing services as well – from getting food from our community pantry to having access to our community workers and youth worker.
‘‘They have got lots of struggles so we don’t see Karanga Mai as sitting out on its own.’’
A big part of the school’s special character is running vans each day to bring students and their children to school from Christchurch and throughout North Canterbury, Ms McInerney says.
It is also one of the funding challenges, as Karanga Mai is only funded for the students eligible for a training incentive allowance and not for the children.
‘‘It’s about breaking down barriers,’’ Ms McInerney says.
‘‘If it’s about bringing them to college, then we do it.
‘‘If they are in hospital, we go to them. If they are stuck at home for an extended period, we take work to them to keep them engaged.’’
‘‘Karanga Mai wellbeing’’ is set to be the focus of a big fundraising drive by Wellbeing North Canterbury later this year.
‘‘We want it to grow and keep growing and thriving and to help the students and staff work to their strengths,’’ Ms Ryan says.
There have been suggestions recently that Wellbeing North Canterbury is struggling to survive in the postearthquake environment, however Ms Ryan says Karanga Mai’s win is proof the organisation as a whole is thriving.