Teen mum lives and learns

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Courtney Quirke never imag­ined that at 18 she would be jug­gling school work, bills and be­ing a mother but this teen mum is de­ter­mined to make some­thing of her life and give her son a great fu­ture.

Speak­ing to the South Waikato News at the Teen Par­ent­ing Unit at the old Matarawa School build­ing near Toko­roa High School, Courtney is work­ing on her tourism stud­ies and opens up about her ex­pe­ri­ences to date.

The last time South Waikato News caught up with Courtney her son Wy­att was just a few months old and she was ready to em­bark on school life through the Teen Par­ent­ing Unit.

One year has passed since then and Courtney could not be hap­pier.

‘‘I didn’t re­alise it’s al­most been a year at the unit it has gone so fast. Wy­att and I have our own home; he is at­tend­ing day­care while I’m at school but if he gets sick I can bring him into the unit with me.’’

Courtney has com­pleted Na­tional Certificate of Ed­u­ca­tional Achieve­ment level two. She hopes to achieve level three this year.

Courtney cred­its the teen par­ent­ing unit for help­ing achieve her goals.

‘‘ If it wasn’t for the unit I wouldn’t be able to con­tinue high school and gain the qual­i­fi­ca­tions I have. I would prob­a­bly be at home look­ing af­ter Wy­att and that’s it.’’

Although she would not trade Wy­att for the world, Courtney said that if she had a choice she would have waited un­til she had fin­ished her stud­ies and de­vel­oped a work record be­fore be­com- ing a mother. ‘‘If I could, I would have waited. How­ever there is a sil­ver lin­ing. If it wasn’t for Wy­att I would not have my level two NCEA. I would not be try­ing hard at school and I would be us­ing school to or­gan­ise my so­cial life. Wy­att is my in­spi­ra­tion to suc­ceed.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing I do is to give him a bet­ter fu­ture and I am de­ter­mined.’’

Courtney has been lucky to have the full sup­port of her mum and dad who are dot­ing grand­par­ents.

‘‘My mum turns up ev­ery day to my house to see how we’re go­ing. She is an amaz­ing mother and an awe­some nan. She turns up if it’s rain­ing to give me and Wy­att a ride to school and day­care. My fam­ily have been our rock.’’

Teen par­ent­ing unit co­or­di­na­tor Irene Hakaria said the unit was de­signed to help teen moth­ers and fa­thers com­plete their sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion.

‘‘ I ab­so­lutely love my job,’’ whaea Irene said, ‘‘We have the added bonus of not only hav­ing stu­dents at­tend but at times their ba­bies. The unit helps moth­ers and fa­thers suc­ceed while caring for their chil­dren.’’

The Teen Par­ent­ing Unit is a joint ven­ture be­tween Toko­roa High School, For­est View High School and other com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Irene said stu­dents had the choice to achieve through be­ing in­te­grated into classes at Toko­roa High School or com­plet­ing work through the Cor­re­spon­dence School.

Courtney said it had been the ac­cep­tance of her peers that had made her jour­ney from schoolgirl to mother and stu­dent a happy ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘You just never know how they will re­act to you once they find out you have a baby. But my class­mates have been sup­port­ive and ac­cept­ing.

The Teen Par­ent­ing Unit of­fers teen moth­ers and fa­thers a chance at learn­ing at their pace while putting the needs of the baby and the mother first.

The unit has three staff – Irene, Fran Thompson-steven and Carle Hakaria.

Courtney’s goal is to move into ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion to com­plete a busi­ness or law de­gree. She wants to en­cour­age other young moth­ers and fa­thers up to the age of 24 to get their qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

‘‘Just be­cause you are a teen and may have one or more ba­bies doesn’t mean your ed­u­ca­tion needs to be put on hold. If you are not go­ing to do it for your­self you should do it for your ba­bies.’’

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Teen Par­ent­ing Unit con­tact Irene Hakaria via Toko­roa High School on 07 886 6109.

Photo: FLORENCE KERR

SUC­CESS: Teen Par­ent­ing Unit stu­dents Courtney Quirke and Niria Rika hold­ing Niria’s daugh­ter Lily Manuel.

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