Thu 15 Feb 2018

Hannah spreads her wings

Hannah Herbert-Olsen arrived as a shy 17-year-old at WITT in 2012, having left school without qualifications.

She began her journey not knowing what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go, and, in her words, had no self-awareness.

This week, six years on, she has started a new journey: enrolled at the University of Canterbury in a four year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree course.

Her metamorphosis into what WITT Youth Guarantee Support team member Joanah Phillips calls a butterfly is a success story tutors are celebrating.

New Plymouth born Hannah struggled through school, victimised for not conforming to the norm.

“When she arrived at WITT she would hardly talk to anyone, would not look anyone in the eye, and had almost no self-esteem,” Joanah recalled.  “She had left school with hardly any credits, had been bullied through school and had challenging personal struggles.”

Hannah was soon to appreciate the difference between school and tertiary education environments.

“I didn’t realise I would be in an adult learning environment. I made many really good friends – the first one was someone who was a lot older than me.”

“I just found I was a creative person, and the tutors were really helpful – and Joanah wouldn’t let me muck around.”

The teenager ticked the boxes by completing her Certificate in Tertiary Studies at Levels 2 and 3, then gaining her NCEA Levels 1 and 2. She returned to WITT to gain a Certificate in Espresso, Bar and Restaurant, then – still not feeling confident enough to enter the workforce – re-enrolled to gain a Certificate in Creative Technologies Level 4 then a Diploma in Creative Technologies Level 6.

That certificate was the key to further study at Canterbury.

It was during her study for the Certificate in Creative Technologies that Hannah came out of her shell, explaining how she went from someone too shy to talk to a student who became “loud and annoying”.

Joanah Phillips sees it slightly differently.

“It has been a real privilege and pleasure to watch Hannah blossom into the young woman she has become,” she says.

“I think the key to it was her time on the Youth Guarantee programme in her first year at WITT. It is inspiring to see young people who arrive with no aims or aspirations gain confidence and see what they are capable of.’’

During her time at WITT Hannah also started work as a cleaner at Spotless and worked her way up to a supervisor.

“I am really proud of how she has combatted personal issues and obstacles to reach a point where she is starting a new phase of her life at university,” Joanah added.

Hannah pays tribute to the pastoral support at WITT as well as the “worldly” tutors who helped her.

“Art is not just technique, it’s also about knowledge - it’s the thought and reasoning.”

She draws her artistic and musical inspiration from the likes of Picasso, Toss Wollaston and Amy Winehouse and sees her future as an artist working in paint and exhibiting, as well as working in galleries.

And the one-time shy 17-year-old, having found herself, is also looking forward to helping other budding artists as a teacher.

“I would like to teach others what I have learnt.”


Picture: Hannah (left) and Joanah Phillips pictured on the WITT campus at a table covered in Hannah’s art work.