Kerri’s story is one of a series aimed at inspiring disabled young people.
Twenty-five-year-old Kerri is following her dream career path to becoming a counselor. She’s working as the volunteer coordinator at Youthline, having already worked in the organisation on a project with the New Zealand Red Cross for the past year.
After graduating from Canterbury University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2012, Kerri was immediately employed at Youthline. She has plans to study further and obtain her Masters in Counseling after gaining some work experience and enjoying a break from study.
Kerri doesn’t let anything hold her back and she wants to encourage other young people with disabilities to get into study and pursue their career choices.
Going to university was important to Kerri. First, she started her tertiary education with a certificate in Community Studies specialising in Youth Work at CPIT. “The support is very good there. For me, it was a good transition out of school,” she says.
She then discovered her passion for psychology and made the move to the University of Canterbury. Getting started was easy and she felt supported every step of the way by the Disability Resource Service at the university.
“They accommodated everything I needed. The people there are really nice and are there to support you. They don’t make things difficult. The support was excellent – can’t fault it. I’d encourage people to be really clear about the supports they need to make study work for them,” Kerri says.
She was provided with personal support to get around campus and to enrol. Note takers, support people in labs, assignment writers, exam writers and any other assistance she asked for was provided.
It was important for Kerri to get in early to plan her support before starting university so that she felt well prepared to start classes. Rachel Rogers, who helped Kerri at the UC Disability Resource Service, advises young people to get in touch with the service as soon as they start thinking about their study.
“We work with students to ensure we have the best level of academic support in place to meet their needs. We create an individual learning plan for the student,” Rachel says.
Like any other young person at university, Kerri made friends in her classes, participated in study groups, went out for dinner with friends and did all the other things involved with ‘uni life’.
Making an effort with people was important for her in establishing a university life. “You’ve got to put yourself out there. Uni is a big place and everyone has to make an effort to get to know people. I’d encourage people to just say hi and talk to others. My experience is that people are pretty friendly,” Kerri says.
With her career on track, Kerri’s next big plan is house hunting in Christchurch. She’s been looking for the past two months and has found that making the change will be relatively easy - she’ll just have to increase her personal care support to what she needs when she no longer lives at home.
“It’s always been my goal and I’d prefer to pay my own mortgage than rent and pay someone else’s! It’s going to be great to have my independence and take that next step into my own house,” she says.
Finding a partner is also on her to do list but at the moment she is content with spending time with friends, exploring the Christchurch shops and enjoying the city’s growing nightlife.
Potential students who need support to study at the University of Canterbury can email email@example.com.