From the West Coast of New Zealand, Fiona Beals is one of only two kids from her generation to have earned a PhD – an achievement she’s rightfully pretty proud of. Not expected to achieve much, her path and ambitions changed after a chance meeting with a local youth worker who handed her a cassette tape.
She made the move north to study at Wellington Teachers College. But Fiona decided classroom teaching wasn’t her thing, so she continued her education, getting her Masters and then PhD at Victoria University, focusing on how others perceive youth offenders. We all know perception is rarely the reality and Fiona is passionate about understanding the impacts media, social reform, and cultural bias have on young people and their sense of identity.
While social work advocates for change in our communities and looks to connect people with services and support, Fiona’s definition of youth work is about reigniting the hope young people have in themselves.
It’s a powerful concept and she practices what she preaches, opening her home to local teens, getting involved in youth groups and serving in her 2nd term as a board member of Ara Taiohi.
Fiona leads the Youth Development programmes at WelTec, taught in Porirua and Auckland. It’s a flexible course and an amazingly supportive, hands-on learning environment.
Fiona jokes that their classes are too noisy to be based in the main blocks of campus.
We laugh, shout and really become whānau, and I’m proud to be able to share that kind of connection with our students.
"I tell students, year one; you learn about you; year two, you learn about organisations; year three, you change the world.”
No small feat, and with student numbers growing year-on-year, they’re doing something right.
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