Student story

Shaylee Morton

Shaylee Morton has a big heart, driven by a passion for helping others. After 20 years as a stay-at-home mother of six, Shaylee is turning that passion into a career by studying her Bachelor of Social Services at Otago Polytechnic.  

Hero Shaylee Morton

Shaylee introduces herself with her pepeha:

“Ko Nui-a-Kiwa te moana
Ko Kume te maunga
Ko Waitangi te awa
Ko Ruakaramea te waka
Ko Tii Waitangi te marae Ko Ngāpuhi, ko Ngāti Kahungunu, ko Ngāi Tahu ōku iwi.
Ko Shaylee taku ingoa.”

Since 2020, Shaylee has been hard at work gaining qualifications with an eye towards working with and alongside Māori to support their journeys, using her own experience as a point of connection.

After completing her Foundations programme, Shaylee earned the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level 4), before enrolling in the Bachelor of Social Services programme. 

Here are a few questions answered by Shaylee about her experience studying at Otago Polytechnic. 

You’re currently studying the first year of the Bachelor of Social Services. What do you like best about your course so far? 

I absolutely love that each day in class I learn something new about Aotearoa’s history, particularly learning about Te Tiriti O Waitangi, while challenging my own false beliefs and biases.  

“The other thing I love about this course is how I get to discover more about my own culture, my passions and how to be a good empathetic listener.” 

Why did you choose the Bachelor of Social Services at Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga? 

“I chose this particular area of study because like most people I have a past, I have made bad decisions and I have experienced the rougher side of life. I want to use my negative life experiences to help and support others. 

My hope is to get a job at the end of my three years of study.”   

Can you describe how your programme matches with your goals? 

“Personally, I struggled with my identity and being Māori. This impacted hugely on my self-acceptance, but the staff at Te Punaka Ōwheo—Māori Learner Support—and Foundations lecturer Jade Morgan helped me learn to accept who I am regardless of the colour of my skin. I hope to learn how to support others in learning who they are, too. 

“In the health sector and in my courses, I am learning that it is vital to have representation that understands the unique needs of Māori and the systemic generational effects of colonisation in order to support appropriately, potentially change the statistics, and make a difference for our people.”  

Placements are a big part of the Social Services programme. Could you tell us a bit about your placement at Te Punaka Ōwheo? 

“Placement with Te Punaka Ōwheo has filled a passion to work with Māori in my future career opportunities.  

“I love the Māori concepts of support, how they encompass all aspects of well-being, and I hope to continue my learning with this concept at the centre of all that I do.” 

What would you say to anyone thinking about studying Social Services at Otago Polytechnic?  

“Just go for it. It does not matter your age, if you have spent the last however many years raising kids. If you have aspirations and dreams, you will not achieve them unless you step outside your comfort zone.  

“It has been an achievement passing all my courses to date, and that has taught me that I am more capable than I ever knew.” 

Published on 14 Mar 2023