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Pacific Youth On The Road To University

ASA students and tuakana. Photo: William Chea

While most secondary students spent the last holidays relaxing, a group of Pacific students from the Manawatū were on a road trip to Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.

They were part of a tour organised by the Amanaki STEM Academy and Pūtahi Manawa, Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand hosted by Manaaki Manawa, University of Auckland, in collaboration with other tertiary organisations in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Traveling across the motu, the group of 19 students spent time with a national network of researchers and educators, learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As well as attending workshops and a programme of activities that included visiting Rocket Lab, the group also toured the University seeing the iconic Fale Pasifika before hiking up to the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences in Grafton.

Husband and wife team, Viliami Teumohenga and Tanya Koro are co-founders of Amanaki, they first set up almost 20 years ago to scaffold Pacific students with the goal of switching on young minds to STEM subjects and the overall goal of opening career doors.

Teumohenga said the Auckland tour had been a positive experience for the Palmerston North students, learning about research and project design skills that were also applicable in their everyday lives; allowing them to problem solve and create solutions for their families and community.

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“It’s been great bringing them up here, they’re so excited and we would’ve liked to have brought everyone from the academy,” he said referring to their current cohort of 125 students in Palmerston North.

Amanaki was one of the few academies in the country for Pacific secondary students and it had a 100 per cent pass rate in its senior students, more than 85 per cent of its students gained merit or excellence.

The University’s Pacific Health Wayfinders is another programme designed to attract more Pacific students into careers in health, through studying at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Set up three years ago (an initiative under the Office of the Associate Dean for Pacific, led by Associate Professor Sir Collin Tukuitonga) the programme focuses on important elements such as subject selection, pathway planning and course counselling.

Teumoehenga said judging from the reactions and excitement of the group, many were visiting the University for the first time; it was clear a number of them were now thinking seriously about coming to Tāmaki Makaurau once they had gained University Entrance.

Anuj Bhargava, Professional Teaching Fellow and Outreach and Education Lead for Pūtahi Manawa says the many pathways to university for young Pacific youth was a very positive development, and the week-long Amanaki tour empowered Pacific youth to enter university studies with confidence.

“Viliami and Tanya started this 18 years ago with their three children and now it has grown into a programme showing tremendous results.”

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