Norman Gomez has overcome substantial difficulties to make a life for himself in Hamilton.
The 17-year-old is a student at St John's College, and is a Tuakana (peer support leader) for younger students. His experiences in life are an important personal asset in his support for others and ability to provide them with motivation to aim high and never give up.
Norman was born in Colombia and his mother worked with the Colombian Government to help those affected by the government's growing conflict with the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia. Unfortunately, this led to his family being targeted and having to relocate for safety reasons.
Adjusting to a new culture was incredibly testing for Norman. He credits a tight relationship with his family as the key in getting him through the hard times, and being able to look forward in life.
"My mother has been and is my rock; she has shown me to never give up when things get hard. My older brother has become like my father and there is no way in this world I can thank him for the things he has done for me and given up to help our family. He is the man I strive to be."
Norman dreams of a bright and successful future ahead. His next goals are to continue to achieve well in school, which he has been doing. He says he has had great support from St John's and hopes to be able to give back by continuing in a leadership role.
He plans to study medicine once he finishes school, with hopes of eventually becoming a doctor. He has always wanted to study medicine but also has a desire to use his skills to help others.
Staff at St John's have seen the change in Norman. One of his teachers, Hinemutu Lewis is very proud of the young man Norman has become.
"In spite of his tragic beginnings, Norman is one of the most positive young men you will meet. He embraces every opportunity to improve himself and to help others. He is a success story, a friendly, intelligent and caring young man who we are proud to have as a member of our college."
Norman hopes that by sharing his story, he can show other people to never give up, even when experiencing extreme difficulty.
"Dream big and be grateful. Always be supportive to those taking care of you because for them it can be hard as well. By you showing that you can succeed, you will motivate them to overcome this adversity. Never let those who are working hard for us forget how much we love them and believe in them."