2016 Toloa Tertiary Scholarship Winners

The Inaugural Toloa Tertiary Scholarship Winners

 Zoe So’otaga - Tokelau, Samoa, NZ European from Wellington 

(Bachelor of Building Science, Victoria University of Wellington)

ResizedImageWzIwMCwyMjVd ZoeThere were a number of university courses I was considering applying for including Building Science.  I asked the Pacific Liason officer from Victoria University to talk me through Building Science.  It appeared to bring together most of the subjects I had been taking – Calculus, Physics, Art and English.

Once I understood the course and with the specialisations being in Sustainable Engineering Systems and Project Management I knew this course was where I wanted to be.  I began to see that with Building Science I could be part of a group of people that will eliminate the housing crisis. I would like to achieve a skillset that can provide healthy, safe and practical homes or buildings that pacific people and wider community of New Zealand can afford.

Science is vital for progress. Science is key to the safe and healthy development of our society, Without the research and experimentations in science we wouldn’t understand how specific things or even how the world works.

My aspirational goal is to be part of a group of people that will eliminate the housing crisis. This is a bold aspiration but one that will take me forward.  Achieving a Bachelor in Building Science will ensure I can achieve a good position in the industry to work toward my aspiration, but also allow me to provide a good income to my future family.  I also wouldn’t mind giving knowledge back to the community.  I can see myself working in the field to help develop ideal solutions for housing and buildings, but I can also see myself sharing knowledge/ teaching on relevant areas of specialty.

Being awarded the Ministry’s Toloa Tertiary scholarship truly eliminates the main barrier and stress to of finances when studying.  This is the stress of finances for the course.  Although I would have to get a loan otherwise, it is the perception of debt afterwards and how my family might feel they have to fund it. I also find it motivating that there is something or someone else that I am studying for, that wants me to achieve.

I feel that being awarded this scholarship, shows that other people also believe that I can do this.  This is why I think the inclusion of tutoring and mentorship across the course length will ensure that I not only pass – but make me feel like it is realistic to aim for A’s.  The offer of an internship in the final year which will really connect me with the industry and grow my base of connections. The support of Toloa provides me with the confidence and self-belief that I throw my all into this course, do well, and reach my goals.

I want more Pacific families and communities to own healthier, practical and affordable homes.  I hope that the engineering and building solutions I learn and the skills I achieve will allow me to provide Pacific people with a healthier living environment.  Growing up in Naenae, Lower Hutt, and then watching my parents look for a bigger house for our uncle and Grandparents to move in with us, I soon saw it is not cheap! I have seen family and friends struggle trying to maintain ownership of a house that can’t even provide fresh air and warmth during winter.

I hope to inspire younger Pacific generations to want to do science based subjects and dream big dreams that can benefit our Pacific communities. This will impact on the low statistics for Pacific students in STEM subjects and bring a deeper understanding for our pacific people of the Western environment and structures.


Melissa Kupa – Tokelau from Wellington

(First Year Bachelor of Engineering Technology, Wellington Institute of Technology)

ResizedImageWzIwMCwyMzdd Melissa2Melissa Kupa is described by staff at her former secondary school as a focused young lady who is determined to make the most of her abilities and opportunities.

Melissa has been accepted into the Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) to undertake a Bachelor of Engineering Technology.

Today's world is forever evolving including the technology we use, the natural disasters which threatens us, the education we are taught etc. Watching this world develop around me, and learning how the world and the things inside it worked fascinated me while growing up. I wanted to be a part of the people who make a difference in the world, helping make life easier for everyone. And also part of the generation who invent flying cars. It sounds cliché, but I do aspire to make the world a better place, and I believe engineering will help me achieve this goal, as I hope to not only do the work but also educate and be educated as I go along. "Catch a fish for a man, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will eat for the rest of his life".

There are many problems affecting our Pacific Nations, such as Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels. As an engineer, I hope to help with these growing problems, sharing my knowledge of what I learn to help our Pacific Islands to develop, and also integrating this knowledge with traditional style ways of the islands, hopefully helping to build a more sustainable and easy Island life. For example, finding more ways to improve the sea walls which help decrease the corrosion of the island from incoming waves.

Science at school really fascinated me, building and destroying things in different ways, and the practical experiments was always fun, like making toy cars or blowing circuits up. However, the numbers of Pacific Peoples interest in science isn't very high, as they don't usually see the mind blowing aspects of it, or how much it broadens your mind knowing how most things we take for granted work and how much it helps with everyday life. Science also allows you to view the world with an open mind and how we could make it better. Pacific Islanders have so much to offer to the world, and to get more into these STEM courses, could help our Pacific Nations out very much as many threats arise affecting our homelands. So, with this Toloa Tertiary Scholarship, which I am very grateful for, I will not only be provided with huge financial support, but also an internship opportunity and more opportunities to connect with Pacific People, where we would not only make a positive impact on the whole Pacific community, but also with the rest of the world.

If it weren't for my family, church and friends, I most definitely would not be in the position I am in right now. Being a typical Pacific Island family, I have been taught all the values needed in life to always put Our Heavenly Father first, to always be humble and love one another and to never give up, especially my mother. Although, at first, my family was shocked when I, a female, said I want to be an Engineer, the support and never ending love stayed strong and I will forever be grateful for them in my life. They let me know constantly that they are proud of me and my achievements and after all they have one for me, I know this career pathway will help me provide for them. "GOD IS GOOD. ALL THE TIME"

Jerome Tufuga – Samoan from Auckland

(Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, University of Auckland)

Jerome resized2Jerome is studying towards a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Auckland. During his last visit to Samoa, Jerome was encouraged to see a number of solar farms developing.  He would like to explore other energy saving resources for Samoa with a view to helping rural villages to save on their growing power bills.   He was a runner up for the scholarship in 2016, and after narrowly missing the opportunity last year, he’s able to pick up the scholarship this year due to a former recipient transferring out of STEM studies.



Fuli Junior Fuli – Samoa residing in Auckland

(Bachelor of Technology (Honours), University of Auckland)

ResizedImageWzIwMCwyNjZd FuliMy name is Fuli Fuli. I’m a proud Samoan New Zealander and an enthusiastic advocate for furthering our Pacific Peoples’ education. I’m very passionate about helping our Pacific people do well in their studies and so am involved with the universities Tuakana program, which help young Maori and Pacific students get settled into university life. I have been a Tuakana tutor for Statistics for two years now and am also tutoring for Computer Science this year. I’m also employed by the University disabilities services department as a note taker and reader/test writer for students with disabilities.

I chose to study a Bachelor of Technology, (Honours) in Information Technology because technology has always been a passion of mine. This degree looks at the networking and computer science software side of technology as well as the business management side. It’s a challenging 4-year degree that requires that we not only pass our papers, but also that we maintain a GPA of 5.0 or above in order to remain in the course. I like this as it ensures I push myself to get the best out of me. In this day and age, technology is becoming even more important in the job market as industries move towards automation and greater dependency on computers and technology. The need for skilled people in these fields is growing.

My parents are Samoan and I am one of nine children, brought up in Otara and received most of my schooling there from primary through to college. Our parents instilled within us the importance of getting an education and we were given an early introduction into the world of tests and exam sitting from our strict religious upbringing in Otara Methodist church, where we were made to attend Sunday school and compete in the end of year Sunday school exams from before we were even age of 5. Being typical Samoan parents, they were fiercely competitive with other church members, which meant we were pushed pretty hard to learn our Sunday school studies. It was tough and we all hated it at the time, but I am thankful for it now as I believe that the habits and learning discipline we learnt back then, contributed to most of our success later on at school in college and tertiary level.

My family has been very supportive of me during my studies, especially my wife who has encouraged me to go back to school. It was a scary move to make, both financially and in terms of whether I’d be able to cope, as it had been a very long time since I’d been at school and I wondered if it would be too much to handle, especially at a university level. Thankfully, with many prayers and hard work, it all worked out and my family are very impressed with my results and as thrilled as I am, maybe more so, to hear of being awarded this scholarship.

My aspirations are to be a network administrator/project manager and/or software engineer.  My degree has wide applications and will definitely help me get into that industry.

The Ministry’s Toloa Tertiary scholarship will help me reach my goal. It gives such financial relief and will enable me to continue postgrad study for a Masters in Information Technology. In terms of inspiration I received a huge confidence boost, it is such an amazing honour to receive this and I feel so blessed. It means the world to my family and it will make such a big difference to me going forward. I am humbled and so grateful to receive this from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and it makes me an even prouder Pacific Islander to know we have such support.

I believe my achievements, the achievement of any Pacific islander in any field for that matter, is a great benefit to our collective Pacific island communities. Leading by example gives our people great motivation to do the same and we need more Pacific peoples in the technology sector, in STEM, today more than ever as jobs will increasingly gravitate towards science and technology. I would personally love to give back, after getting established in the industry, and come back to university as a technology tutor/mentor for our Pacific people, perhaps in the Tuakana program or some other initiative.  I love the idea of Pacific people working together to help us rise as a people and I’m all for giving back to our communities.