Michelle’s new life

From drugs and al­co­hol to study­ing for a de­gree

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

Michelle Ra­tima was al­most kicked out of pri­mary school, never made it to high school and was ad­dicted to drugs and al­co­hol by the age of 10.

Eight years later, the teenager has quit the ad­dic­tions and is on the road to get­ting a de­gree in youth and so­cial work.

‘‘I feel hap­pier and I have more money. I have hung out with people I used to judge,’’ she said about her new life.

It has not been an easy road to change.

Af­ter years of not car­ing, Ra­tima has needed to com­plete two years of bridg­ing cour­ses at Whi­tireia to get into a full de­gree.

‘‘I have worked hard for where I have got now. I didn’t even know I could write es­says.

‘‘ I didn’t ever know about psy­chol­ogy or how to even write aca­dem­i­cally. I have been places I never thought I could go. I have got op­por­tu­ni­ties.’’

For Ra­tima, the bad be­hav­iour started young.

She grew up in Hawke’s Bay in a fam­ily with gang ties. She said she was al­most kicked out of pri­mary school, and by the time intermediate was over, she had been placed in al­ter­na­tive ed­u­ca­tion.

‘‘I was on drugs. I was un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. I didn’t know any bet­ter.

‘‘I thought this [her cur­rent] type of life­style was bor­ing. Smok­ing, drugs, drink­ing al­co­hol and par­ty­ing, all that kind of stuff I thought was fun.

‘‘I was just go­ing around with older people get­ting stoned. My mother didn’t know I was on drugs.’’

On a typ­i­cal night out, Ra­tima would drink a box of 18 Vodka Cruis­ers, a bot­tle of wine and a bot­tle of vodka. She smoked cannabis ev­ery day. Ra­tima left home a year ago to get away from the in­flu­ences around her.

She started to go to church and to dream of do­ing more.

‘‘I just didn’t like the way I was liv­ing. Even just be­ing broke all the time. I was steal­ing for my ad­dic­tions.

‘‘There was one rule we were told: you never steal from your own hood, you steal from the rich,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m re­al­is­ing people work hard for what they get.’’

Ra­tima ar­rived in Welling­ton with noth­ing and the Sal­va­tion Army found her a home.

She said she now re­alised it was pos­si­ble to have fun with­out drugs and al­co­hol.

In the next two years Ra­tima is plan­ning to start a four- year de­gree in youth and so­cial work.

She said when that was fin­ished, she planned to start a home in Hawke’s Bay for teenagers like her­self.

‘‘ For those who are hav­ing prob­lems at home, get­ting kicked out of home and ad­dicted to drugs and al­co­hol. ‘‘That mo­ti­vates me. ‘‘I ac­tu­ally want to do some­thing prop­erly with my life.’’

Photo: RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

Ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent: Michelle Ra­tima, 18, was ad­dicted to drugs and al­co­hol, but is now study­ing to get a de­gree in so­cial work.

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