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MIT student honoured with memorial scholarship

Monday, 22 May 2006

MIT student honoured with memorial scholarship

Award pays tribute to Annabel Whaanga

Being awarded a scholarship that pays tribute to a woman whose life inspired many is a great honour for Manukau Institute of Technology student Katrina Tolomaki.

Katrina is the inaugural recipient of the Annabel Whaanga Memorial Scholarship, which was presented by Manukau City Council to an MIT Communication Studies student for the first time.

The scholarship celebrates the life and achievements of Annabel Whaanga, who was a communications advisor at the council and an inspirational force in the community. She was also an active member on the MIT School of Communication Studies Advisory Committee and a mentor to communication students.

Annabel had turned her life around by going back to school as a mature student after living on the streets and working as a cleaner. But tragedy struck in December 2004, when a car accident cut Annabel’s life short.

However, Annabel’s spirit and dynamism lives on through the scholarship, says Lynne Trenwith joint head of the MIT School of Communication Studies.

“Annabel was an extraordinary woman who had overcome major obstacles to achieve success and who lived life to the full,” says Lynne.

The scholarship was presented to Katrina during a moving ceremony at the MIT marae last week, attended by members of Annabel’s whanau, as well as representatives of the Manukau City Council, including chief executive Leigh Auton.

While Katrina, a Manurewa resident, cannot imagine filling Annabel’s shoes, she feels great honour in receiving a scholarship that celebrates her love of life and determination to make a difference.

“To be the first recipient of the memorial scholarship is a great honour. Annabel was an inspiration to so many people. If I am half as successful as her I will be rapt.”

The scholarship recognises and acknowledges the challenges recipients have had to overcome to reach their third year of study and awards Katrina with $3000 towards tuition fees for the final year of her Bachelor of Applied Communication degree.

Mr Auton says the council is delighted to offer the opportunity for communications students to follow in Annabel's footsteps.

”We share her commitment to the importance of education, and we're pleased that Annabel will continue to make a permanent contribution to the profession she loved and was so good at."

To be selected or the award, candidates submitted a 500-word proposal on why they should receive the scholarship, as well as a copy of their academic record for the previous two years. The recipient was selected by representatives from Annabel’s family, Manukau City Council and MIT.

One of the key criteria was that the student had embarked on academic study as a life-changing exercise as Annabel had done.

Katrina had been working full time for 12 years when she decided to follow her dream of furthering her education and enrolled in the Diploma of Communication at MIT. She enjoyed the course so much she continued on to the bachelor programme.

“It was a big leap, but I had to look at the big picture. Winning the scholarship validates my decision to study further.”

One of the most valuable aspects of the scholarship is that it includes full time communications work, during her holidays, at the Manukau City Council.

“The experience I will gain working in an actual communications position will be invaluable.”

Katrina has her sights set on a career in events management, but also plans to apply her skills to boost the fortunes of Niue from where her father hails.

“The cultural diversity at MIT has helped me identify more with my Niuean heritage and I would like to do some work to help Niueans.”

Communication Studies senior lecturer Graeme Sterne says her commitment to changing her life through further education was exemplary.

“Katrina had to make huge sacrifices to study further. She has been outstanding in her perseverance.”

Katrina discovering the Niuean side of her cultural identity while at MIT would also have struck a cord with Annabel Whaanga, says Graeme. “That is something Annabel prized highly.”


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