Telford’s 2023 graduates were the first to walk across the stage in their graduation ceremony at the recently completed Te Pou Ō Mata-Au - Clutha District War Memorial & Community Centre, in an afternoon which acknowledged their achievements.
Held on Thursday, November 30th, more than 200 people were in attendance; SIT | Te Pūkenga management and Telford staff were joined by Clutha District Mayor, Bryan Cadogan, proud parents, family members and well wishers, to support and celebrate the 2023 graduates.
The rain stopped at just the right time for the street procession, which saw the graduating classes led by staff and The Mayor, walk down Balclutha’s main thoroughfare, Clyde Street - also State Highway 1 - from the Balclutha Presbyterian Church to the new community centre, on the banks of the Clutha river.
It was the first time Telford Head of Faculty, Dr Sally Dobbs, had experienced the street procession due to the Covid disruption in 2021, and the graduation taking place in the Telford campus grounds in 2022 while the community centre was still under construction. “It was amazing,” she said, adding there was “real community involvement” in the event, with a local supplier loaning a tractor and 4WD vehicles to take part in the procession. Befitting the occasion, three bagpipers piped the procession on its route, with two drummers, both of whom are Telford students. A number of graduates included their working dogs in the procession, which they’d trained throughout the year. The dogs in the parade added to the graduation’s individuality, said Dr Dobbs.
For Telford’s first graduation in the new community hub, there was a particularly festive atmosphere in the auditorium, with everyone welcomed in to the sounds of the conch shell and the bagpipes. 50 graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas and certificates; qualifications represented were Massey Diploma in Agriculture (Level 5), Certificate in Farming Systems and Equipment (Level 3) (Sheep, Beef and Dairy), New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology Rural Animal Technician Level 5, and New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Operation Skills Level 3. Two graduates from the New Zealand Certificate in Wool Technology and Classing (Level 4), a distance learning qualification, travelled from Central Otago to participate.
Dr Dobbs described Telford as “unique” and its graduation was “quite special” because Telford offered residential vocational education. Students don’t just study together, they live together on campus and form a strong, cohesive bond. “It’s actually a very emotional graduation, they are genuinely like a family. They’re not just graduating from a programme, they’re graduating from a family,” she said.
Looking ahead into 2024, Dr Dobbs said there were “really good” enrolment numbers for Telford’s programmes, which was a positive note to end the year on.