At 17-years-old Krista Kite dropped out of school with no idea of what she wanted to do with her life.
But by the time she was 20 she was a sworn police officer handcuffing criminals, including gang members twice her age and size, in South Auckland.
Now she's juggling full-time work as a community constable in Porirua, being a mum, and studying towards a degree in psychology.
She is one of nearly 2000 female constabulary staff in the New Zealand Police and believes she could be the only sworn police officer from her iwi, Ngāti Maniapoto.
"I became a non-sworn member at 17, and worked at the public counter, which is where you go and make reports of lost property and theft. I was a 17-year-old child, essentially, telling people what to do, so it was quite a harrowing experience," she said.
"Then at 20-years-old I became a sworn member and was posted to Manurewa. It was quite a dangerous place to be thrown into the deep end. It was actually really scary.
"I'm not a big person, so coming up to these situations with big gang members and big men and you just think 'I'm so lucky to still be here, and still get to go home at the end of the day'."
But the experience was also incredibly rewarding, she said.
"When things go bad you just think 'I'm just a kid, telling these 40 or 50-year-olds what to do, where to go, arresting them and holding them in custody', and it's just crazy to think that I haven't lived as long as they have but yet I'm telling them what to do.
"But at the same time, it was just so cool seeing good things happen to people who deserve it. When you get a good outcome, say a win in a court case for a theft, and you just think 'yes, this is a great outcome'."
Ms Kite said the police had become more diverse in the nearly 10 years since then.
"I definitely feel quite empowered as female Māori officer. I feel like they're really pushing me towards my fullest potential.
"It's been said in the past that there is inequity between female and male staff, but I really feel like that's not the case anymore and right now I feel like I'm supported in my organisation, and there's a place for me to go in terms of moving up the ranking structure and I have the backing of all the senior staff in respects to that."
She said she was very proud of her Māori heritage and encouraged other young Māori women to consider joining the police.
"I say go for it to be honest, I think it's such a rewarding experience and no two days are the same. It's definitely a good, secure job and I just think it's a fantastic time and opportunity to join the police, a time where they are trying to recruit more young female Māori and push them up higher in the ranking structure and represent that area that has been under-represented in the past."
Police districts across the country are set to hold a series of events on 3 June to celebrate 75 years of women in the police force.