Born and raised in Te Puke, Kristy Manley-Griffin says her biggest motivation for studying at the University of Waikato in Tauranga has been her daughter Ivy.
Now aged five, as Kristy wanted to create a better future for her with more opportunities and stability.
'Three years ago, I was a single mother made redundant from a job I really enjoyed,” says the 28-year-old.
'It made me think, what should I do now? Most of my life I'd been told that I have potential, but I always wondered what it was that I should really do. I remembered enjoying accounting at high school, because I've always been good with numbers, but I wasn't focused enough academically at the time so I put it on the backburner.”
With a little encouragement from her friends and family, the former Te Puke High School student decided to take the plunge and go back to school for the first time in nearly a decade.
She was also grateful to receive a $2,500 education scholarship from GHA Chartered Accountants & Management Consultants, a Māori-run business based in Rotorua and Tauranga that aims to help grow the next generation of emerging Māori business leaders. GHA was founded in 2005 by Glenn Hawkins, an alumnus of the Waikato Management School, who has employed a large number of Waikato graduates over the past 16 years.
Kristy (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Porou), is still pinching herself that she graduated last week (11 June) with a Bachelor of Business majoring in accounting, which she completed six months early by picking up extra papers over summer.
She felt honoured to be chosen as the student speaker for her graduation ceremony held at the University's Tauranga campus – having overcome a huge fear of public speaking.
Kristy's goal now is to become a Chartered Accountant and use her financial and business knowledge to help future clients and manage her family's kiwifruit business.
Kristy is straight-up when she admits that returning to study wasn't all smooth sailing.
'If I'm being honest, the university experience was quite intimidating for me at first. As a high school student, I only went to school to play sport and hang out with my friends. So as I walked through the doors of this building I thought, what am I doing here?”
Fortunately, Kristy says she had 'a pretty epic team” pushing her to keep going when the assignments were piling up, and encouraging her to overcome her mortal fear of giving presentations in class.
'I'd check my smart watch and my heart rate was at a cardio peak! But every time my mates would be there telling me it would be all good… and here I am today.”
Kristy says the Covid-19 pandemic also created its own unique pressures during lockdown.
'We were forced to adapt to an unusual experience; moving from face-to-face classes to online study at home. Because let me tell you, it's not easy when you have an energetic three-year-old demanding your attention 24 hours of each day - it was a long six weeks!” she jokes.
All in all Kristy says there were many highlights.
To fulfil the Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) component of her degree, she completed a three-month business internship at Tidy International, a New Zealand-based software company that has offices in Tauranga and the United Kingdom. Kristy was asked to carry out a business research project for them that would identify ways to update and improve their cloud-based billing system for clients.
'I found the research quite interesting, because I learnt a lot about invoicing, and they were really happy with my recommendations and my final presentation.”
As well as being an academic high achiever, Kristy is also a talented netball player. She juggled practices alongside her studies and family commitments and was named the most promising netballer of the year and awarded the Paulette Anderson Trophy by the Te Puke Sports & Recreation Club in November 2020.
Kristy has proved herself capable of setting goals and smashing them and she has some strong advice for graduates of the Class of 2021: 'Be proud of yourself, push yourself to get out of your comfort zones, and don't forget that you are capable of anything.”