Decades of making a difference in the lives of thousands of women was recognised recently when the Next Step Centre for Women team at Ara Institute of Canterbury flew to Wellington to accept the Provider of the Year - Tangata Tiriti award, at the ACE Aotearoa Annual Awards dinner.
Sam Uta'i, Alison Ohs and Gillian Rose - Next Step Centre
The award, which recognises a community-based organisation for its outstanding achievement and contribution as a provider of adult learning, was presented at Te Papa on 14 June.
“The Next Step Centre for Women was delighted to receive the award for Provider of the Year, Tangata Tiriti from ACE Aotearoa,” Gillian Rose, Manager of the Next Step Centre at Ara said. “We were thrilled that Ara has been recognised for its long-standing commitment to learning and teaching in the Adult Community Education sector. Our courses have been going for over 40 years during which time we have assisted thousands of Canterbury women with their ‘next step’. Many thanks go to the wonderful women we have served and prior tutors who blazed the way for courses like ours to exist.”
The centre itself celebrated 25 years in 2012 with the publication of Brave Enough to Wear Red Stockings, an anthology of stories from a few of the many women who have benefitted from attending the centre, and have gone on to study and find employment.
Leisha Sharapoff is just one example – she retrained as a social worker and returns to the centre as a guest speaker. “It’s a really good feeling. It’s great for my confidence and my self-esteem to be able to come back and share that. Because I know where the students are at - I’ve been there, I’ve felt that, and look at me now. I’m really proud of myself, you know, I busted my butt to get where I am today.
“I do owe a whole heap to the Next Step Centre. If I hadn’t got that direction and that reinforcement here, who knows where I would have ended up…”
Gillian and her team have seen many, many such women rebuild their confidence and explore their study and work options. “It is amazing to think of all the women who have made the decision to improve their lives and have walked through our door – from all sorts of backgrounds. Though we give them the tools, a supportive community and the space to explore options, they do the work to get where they want to go. That is the inspiring part.”
Read more: The Next Step Centre for Women