Tony Christiansen says he felt a bit like Humpty Dumpty as he sat on a 1.5-metre high scaffolding and spoke to a group of aspiring university students and their mentors at AUT South Campus.
The motivational speaker lost his legs in a train accident at the age of 9 while collecting coal at a railway yard for a community project.
He was not expected to live past the age of 16 and yet he went on to become a successful businessman, a world-class athlete and a race car champ.
Christiansen has also climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, to the dismay of Sir Edmund Hillary who told him he was ‘‘absolutely crazy’’.
The inspiring Kiwi was at AUT South Campus to share his secrets to overcoming challenges and achieving success.
‘‘It’s not what happens to you but what you do about it,’’ he told the students.
‘‘It’s easy to blame others for the challenges we face. I know far more people who are more disabled than me because of their attitude. Just be the best you can be.’’
More than 100 school leavers from schools in the South Auckland region are participating in UniPrep, a new six-week university preparation programme that helps participants ease into fulltime tertiary study. It is the first of its kind at AUT.
The various workshops focus on career guidance, team-building, numeracy and literacy, outdoor sport, building personal development plans, time management, resilience and leadership.
Fatu Lafaele graduated from De la Salle College last year and is looking to study sports and recreation at AUT.
The 18-year-old sacrificed his summer to take part in UniPrep. He says the experience is important for school leavers to know what to expect.
‘‘Education is important to me, especially since my parents didn’t come from an educational background,’’ he says.
‘‘This programme gives you an insight into university life and how different it is to school. It’s more serious and you have to be good with time management.’’
Lafaele says listening to Christiansen’s talk has inspired him to never give up.
UniPrep mentor Myra Faamausili is in her third year studying business at AUT.
She says school leavers, especially Pacific Islanders, will benefit greatly from the programme.
‘‘Growing up in South Auckland and going to a university that is predominantly white can be hard,’’ she says.
‘‘Giving them this experience is crucial. When I went to university I felt like I was thrown in a deep end. It was a big transition. UniPrep prepares you for the next big stage of your life.’’
As for Christiansen, he has a message for young people. ‘‘Focus, focus, focus,’’ he says. ‘‘Open your eyes to what’s around you. A world of opportunity is all around us and it’s not on our mobile phones.’’