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Pasifika students on the path to success

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Business challenge puts Pasifika students on the path to success

Adding true Pasifika zest to savvy new business ideas helped a group of students launch their studies with scholarships at Manukau Institute of Technology.

Six bright Pasifika students, who won scholarships at the Plantation Business Challenge in September 2005, are about to complete their first semester of study at MIT.

During the first semester, the students have made new friends, strengthened their cultural identity and challenged their perceptions.

As the students look forward to the new opportunities the second half of the year will bring, they reflect on how the scholarships have changed their lives.

The Plantation Business Challenge was launched last year by MIT, Manukau City Council, AUT and the Pacific Business Trust to increase Pasifika student participation in business entrepreneurship.

The five-day business competition is aimed at senior secondary school students from the Counties Manukau region. Teams of four students were challenged to create and present innovative business ideas, with a Pasifika flavour, which were assessed against real-world criteria.
MIT awarded four scholarships at the event.

Bachelor of Business student Ofeina Langi, who attended Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate, received the largest scholarship from MIT at the challenge - the $3500 Frangipani Scholarship for an outstanding individual.

At the competition, Ofeina led a team that designed buttons featuring scents and symbols from each Pacific island. Team-mate Hallelujah Tupuivao won the Heilala Scholarship of $2000 from MIT and is studying a Certificate in Business at MIT.

Coming to MIT is helping her pursue her goal of one day running her own business; it has also brought her closer to her cultural heritage, says Ofeina.

“MIT is such a multicultural campus. I am a member of the Tongan Association and we are going to Hamilton at the end of July to meet with Tongan Associations from other tertiary institutions.”

Ofeina is delighted with her decision to come to MIT after winning the scholarship, which has covered full tuition costs for the year.

“I love it here. We have heaps of time with lecturers. It is close to home, so I don’t have to take the bus or worry about parking.”

Chris Lautua, a Bachelor of Applied Communication student, won the $2000 Gardenia Scholarship from MIT as leader of a group from De La Salle College that proposed to bottle and export fresh coconut juice from each Pacific Island.

Chris reckons he will soon have the skills to help companies dig themselves out of awkward public relations situations. “I want to be a communications consultant in a top corporate organisation, such as Telecom.”

As a student ambassador, Chris is very active in the social scene at MIT.

“MIT is a tight-knit community and it is easy to meet people here. Many of my friends at the large universities say they feel isolated there.”

Meanwhile, two other students, Beverley Papeau and Munesh Naidu from Mangere College, came to MIT after their group was one of two overall winning teams. The group came up with an idea for traditional Pasifika flavoured chicken stuffing and won an $8000 scholarship, which was divided between the four members of the group.

Her $2000 scholarship will earn Beverley her first qualification this semester - a Certificate in Business Administration and Computing. And she is not stopping there - Beverley will embark on the Diploma of Business in Semester 2.

“The scholarship really helped me. Without it I would probably be working, while looking at doing a business-related foundation course,” she says.

Fellow former Mangere College student Leilani Pomare, who received the $2000 Teuila Scholarship from MIT, is enrolled in the Certificate in Advanced Travel Studies.

Taking part in the challenge was a baptism of fire for Leilani, as she had little knowledge of the business world. “I did not even take business as a subject at school, but I got my head around it.”

Overall the scholarship winners agree MIT’s multicultural environment infuses the campus with a unique, friendly and exciting atmosphere.

And they have some words of advice for other students thinking of studying further or competing in the Plantation Business Challenge.

“Go for every opportunity you get and follow your dreams,” says Leilani.

Chris adds: “Dream big and think outside the square”, while Beverley offers: “You do not have to be the brightest business student to give it a go. It is a good opportunity for anyone.”

And from Ofeina: “What have you got to lose? You may win a scholarship.”

MIT Pasifika liaison, Terri Leo-Mauu, says the underlying philosophy of the Plantation Business Challenge is to grow tomorrow’s Pacific business leaders today.

“This is a unique opportunity for senior high school students to take a business idea and develop it under the guidance of skilled professionals and educators.”

The Plantation Business Challenge takes place again from 25 to 29 September. For information on taking part in the event contact Terri on 09 968 8074 or email

MIT is taking enrolments now for courses starting in July. For more information contact MIT on 0800 62 62 52, or visit


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