Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

The Invercargill teenager inspiring Pasifika youth to prioritise their happiness

While many Pacific school leavers can get bogged down by expectations to pursue financial security, aspiring performer Michael Kuresa has always been a stickler for self-belief even if it means an uncertain future.

The 18-year-old Southlander has never been shy to stand alone.

“I know there’s some people who’ve accomplished heaps and then might fall down to a place where you just don’t wanna be at, so I just want to be able to be happy and do what I love doing,” he says.

At first glance it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what he loves doing, because, well, he excels at everything, whether it be playing for the first XV, performing for the jazz band or helping his fellow Pacific Islanders wherever he can.

But more often than not, you’ll find him with a guitar in hand, honing his craft. He’s now recognised nationally for his musical talents, winning competitions left, right and centre

Next year he’s wanting to take things a step further by studying towards a career in performing arts, though he admits it’s risky business.

“You could go and study at the best drama school in New Zealand for three years, and then all of a sudden you’re not being offered any gigs or anything, so obviously it’s taking a risk.

His determination to succeed against the odds is a shining example of confidence for his fellow students at Southland Boys’ High School – where he’s also head boy. With Southland’s Pacific population sitting at around 2%, for a Pacific student at any school to be appointed a head student is a big deal.

“You’re up against families who’ve been in the school for years and years and years. So for Michael as a Pasifika student to get that head boy role, it’s just another feather in his cap,” says community leader Pauline Smith.

“The thing you learn about Michael very quickly is that he’s very happy and comfortable in himself – he’s able to stand apart from the crowd if that’s the right thing to do, and as a leader that’s really important.”

Watch Michael’s story above.

Reporter: Anauli Karima Fai’ai


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