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Catherine Karena

Catherine Karena is the founder of Test-Ed, an organisation that offers free training to unemployed youth in the fast-growing sector of I.T.

This is her story.


I love learning I always have. My Grandfather sat me down and grilled the importance of education in to me when I was only five, and his admonition stuck. He came from the Ngati Kahungunu tribe in Omahu, Hastings. Leaders in my family championed the first Kohanga Reo – a kindergarten where lessons are conducted in Maori as part of a broader movement for the recovery of the Maori language and culture.

Our tribe also ran a restorative justice program, that was first initiated by Maori to take prisoners out of jail and instead have them live and work in the community as part of their rehabilitation.

Growing up in New Zealand I lived in several homes. At one of the latter homes, I lived with an Irish lady named Dot. A distant relative, she was the mother of my mother’s second husband. One day I stood on her front doorstep and declared that she was old, and she needed a younger person to help care and look after her. Dot said I was very young, and she felt I needed an older person to look after me. So, we struck an agreement which involved Dot enlisting all of her elderly friends in the town of Ashurst to raise me.

“This is why I use the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ concept into my Test-Ed program. It builds the young person and it builds the community.”

When I was at university I was just working and studying full-time. I was getting good grades but the topics I chose to learn outside of the curriculum I felt added more value to my life.

“I was disappointed in the memorisation and regurgitation style of learning, and at how very little I was taught felt relevant in the real world.”

That is why at Test-Ed, I work to challenge the status quo of what it means to be educated, by training and mentoring enthusiastic young people (without degrees) to land jobs in IT. Traditionally these roles have been reserved for university graduates, but through the Test-Ed program we are proving that you don’t need a degree to succeed in the fast-moving world of IT.  

My future goals are to run the Test-Ed program in New Zealand as well as expand my company so that I can train more disadvantaged young people. Taking the village global.