Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

University of Auckland empowers South Auckland Pacific students to “Level Up”

By Toni Talamaivao

While most kids were sleeping in and relaxing during their school holidays, 150 Year 9 students from across South Auckland attended a two day holiday programme called ‘Level Up’.

The event is an initiative created by the University of Auckland to inspire and motivate young Pacific learners. Throughout the two days students took part in a range of workshops exploring themes like service, identity, education and culture.

Each morning the students enthusiastically recited the ‘Level Up Confession’ where they professed their pride for being Pacific and their determination for success.

PC: Toni Talamaivao

Vice facilitator of the event Mataiasi Ilolahia-To’ofohe, who recently graduated from the University with a BA/LLB, says programmes like this would have helped him so much when he was in high school.

“When I went through high school, there weren’t any of these University outreach programmes. I always heard them say they were here to help the community and that they wanted more Pacific students, but I never saw it. For me, I see these events as the university putting their money where their mouth is.”

University Ambassadors

When students arrived they were invited to answer the question: where do you see yourself in 10 years? Josiah Ah-Lam, a Cook Island student from Māngere College, says he dreams to go to university to study I.T and Music.

“Being from South Auckland, people stereotype us to be a part of gangs. But programmes like this help us to know who we are and what we mean to this world.”

Josiah says something memorable for him was a quote by one of the student ambassadors…

“She told us that in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you came from. This camp reminded me where I come from and to be proud of my Pacific background.”

Josiah Ah-Lam

For Meliame Funaki, her favourite part was the dancing workshop run by former Miss Samoa Natalie Toevai.

“I’m really glad that I gave up two days of my holidays to come here. I got to make new friends and learn things about different cultures. The dancing was my favourite because it was physical – my legs are still sore!”

The University of Auckland has other Pasifika outreach programmes such as DREAM Fonotaga, TULA’I and the NIU Programme, but this is the first of its kind targeted at Year 9 students.

Matai says, “It’s important for us to start early. Many of the major outreach programmes are for Year 12s, but this is too late. Too many students go through high school not knowing what they’re doing, but this helps to give them some direction as to career paths.”
The programme, currently in its second year, was coordinated by staff, Pacific alumni and student ambassadors from the University. It was held at Te Puke o Tara Community Centre in Ōtara.

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