'To be able to be a part of the moment where someone is able to communicate is incredibly powerful...'
Speech Language Therapist, TalkLink Trust
Radio Presenter, Plains FM 96.9
Kenny understands all too well how important it is to be able to communicate and help others to find their voice, after a decade of speech therapy when he was young to get where he is today.
‘Communication is such an important part of human existence and underpins everything that we do which involves another person. For most people, speech and language are two things that just fall into place seamlessly,’ he says.
‘My road was less straightforward, and although I had lots that I wanted to say, getting those thoughts out there and understood by others was no easy feat. There is often a lack of understanding about communication difficulties and the impact this has on those who experience them, their families and communities.’
Gaining such an important skill transformed him into a person who enjoys public speaking, and takes any opportunity to raise awareness for those with communication difficulties. Kenny was the former CEO of Cleft New Zealand Inc, an organisation which provides support services for people born with a cleft lip or palate.
As such, Kenny made it his passion to directly help others achieve his same level of confidence, with a Speech and Language Pathology qualification.
‘I have experienced first-hand both the frustration of being unable to communicate, as well as the triumph that is being an effective communicator – to be able to help someone else reach that triumphant moment is all the motivation I need.’
UC’s Speech and Language programme was highly endorsed to him by practicing therapists, and after enrolling with a UC Merit Scholarship for his NCEA results, Kenny found the smaller and more dedicated department to be the support he needed towards his career goals.
‘I loved the camaraderie that developed between our class, there was a real and genuine sense of “we are all in this together”, and we all wanted and helped each other to succeed. For me, it was the people who I met (both classmates and the staff in the department) that were the highlight of my UC experience - the field is lucky it attracts such a high calibre of people.
‘I really enjoyed this co-operative style of learning and how welcoming and accepting everybody was - as the only male student on the programme in my year group, I was initially a bit apprehensive about whether I’d be accepted by my classmates. Fortunately that class was an environment where everyone was included, a number of whom I have formed what I hope will be lifelong friendships with.’
Getting involved with SpeechSoc was another big contribution to his studies, and Kenny recommends other Speech Language students join the club for the social and professional benefits.
‘They organise excellent informative events about what to expect in the professional years of the programme, as well as information days with people who are working in the field. They organised a number of fun social events including a party bus, and the coveted Wine & Cheese night, which are great ways to get to know your classmates and to mingle with those in other year groups too.’
Soon after graduating Kenny joined TalkLink as a Speech Language Therapist specialising in alternative and augmentative communication.
‘I love how no two days are the same,’ he says. ‘I am very fortunate that I get to work with people right across the life span, from pre-schoolers, right up to people in their 90s. To be able to be a part of the moment where someone is able to communicate again or perhaps even for the first time, is incredibly powerful and emotional.’
Kenny also hosts a current affairs radio show on Plains FM, covering investigative journalism stories around New Zealand.
‘The BSLP programme has also given me a range of life skills that will be useful whatever I do and wherever I go – from being able to appreciate cultural differences between people, to understanding how to communicate with people of all ages and walks of life, to giving presentations to an audience of your peers.’
In his spare time, Kenny also delivers presentations on overcoming difficulties, such as health conditions and bullying, and is excited to be talking in London later this year.
‘I am very passionate about people being able to achieve their dreams in spite of adversity. We all have our own stories to tell of how we have been through and overcome something challenging to get to where we are to today.
‘If you want a career where you can really make a positive difference in people’s lives and go home at night knowing that you did your bit to make the world a better place today, then this could be the career for you.’