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Perseverance: The Path to Reaching your Goals - By Vilna Villanueva

I am a proud student of Kauri Academy, and our incredible programme leader, AJ, who also serves on the executive board of the New Zealand Society of Diversional and Recreational Therapist Inc, has been a true inspiration to us. He encouraged us to give our all in everything we do. He first introduce the National conference experience to us last year igniting a dream within me to attend ever since. AJ's encouragement and guidance have led us on an incredible journey.

Our conference journey was no easy feat. A fellow student and dear friend of mine set a goal for this year: to attend the National Conference. As students working just 20 hours a week, saving up for this experience was challenging. We diligently and sometimes tiringly saved up for over 8 months, numerous double shifts and several online shopping set aside. But let me tell you, every penny was worth it!

Our conference experience was nothing short of EPIC. We learned, we connected, and we created lasting memories while networking with industry experts and Kauri alumni who are making big waves in our society today. They are our guiding stars.

All the speakers provided invaluable insights, they were all awesome, but it was the workshops for us that filled our baskets with knowledge and skills to enhance the quality of life for our residents.

We were particularly inspired by four Kauri alumni among the 19 graduates who achieved their registration and are now officially National Registered Diversional and Recreational Therapists. Their journey fuels our aspirations that one day it would be us up there.

Our pride swelled as we saw Kauri graduates' submissions dominating the competition entries. The core of our being was moved by all six finalists for the Judy Cooper National Excellence award. Even more inspiring, three out of those six were Kauri graduates. The cherry on top? Ellen Romero, a Kauri graduate, won the Judy Cooper Award this year. Our joy knows no bounds!

During the graduation dinner, our clinical facilitator, Rhea, delivered a speech that left everyone in awe. Kauri's inclusion in the growing AKA Education Group made a significant impact, and has now formally introduced ourselves in the society.

We built connections and networks that will undoubtedly shape our professional journeys.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

A heartfelt thank you to all the organizers and our amazing leaders for being our guiding lights. I call on all students and DRT apprentices to set this as a goal each year. Attend the national conference because it is truly worth it. Next year, the conference will be in Auckland. Hope to see you all there!

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