TOP STUDENT: Lara Simons has graduated from the Nelson Young Parents’ School as the 2018 top academic achiever. She was one of five students to graduate and one of 19 young mums enrolled at the school this year. Photo: Kate Russell.

From high school drop out to graduate super mum


Lara Simons left school on her sixteenth birthday with no qualifications – but, with a young daughter to care for, she was inspired to turn her life around.

Last Thursday, the now 20-year-old mum won the top academic achiever award for 2018 at Nelson’s Young Parents’ School and is moving on to study automotive engineering at NMIT next year.

She was one of five students to graduate and one of 19 young mums enrolled this year.
Lara says that mainstream high school just wasn’t for her.

“I didn’t have any friends in my class and felt like I wasn’t getting enough help. I left school thinking I’d get a job, pay rent and just survive. I wasn’t thinking about my future.”

Lara was referred to the Young Parents’ School in 2016 when her daughter Shylah was just six-months-old.

“I was on the youth benefit and one of the obligations was that I had to be enrolled in education. But I tried to get out of it, I really had to intention of staying.”

But with some perseverance from head teacher Philippa Trewavas, Lara stuck with it.

“I’m so thankful Philippa pushed me to do it. Coming here has been so different from school. We have one-on-one time the whole day and are involved in all the classroom activity.”

This year, Lara also spent one day a week at the NMIT Trades Academy, where she was able to embrace her passion for cars.

“I would love to own my own workshop one day.”

The Young Parents’ School opened at Auckland Point School in 2013 so pregnant and teenage parents could continue their education.

As well as academic learning there is also a focus on parenting and building life skills and care is provided for their children at the onsite kindergarten.

Philippa says, in the time Lara has been with them they have seen her grow into an independent learner with increasing determination to achieve her goals.

“This year she’s shown us all what can be done when you make the decision to try. It’s not an easy task being a young parent and to do school as well.”

Meanwhile, Lara celebrated Shylah’s third birthday on Sunday which Lara says gives her even more determination to do the best she can for her daughter.

“Without her I wouldn’t want to further my future.”