In 2019, Joyce Turu Ieremia (pictured) made the difficult decision to leave her aiga, and move to New Zealand on her own, to pursue her passion to study Education.
The 25-year-old New Zealand-born Samoan spent her early years in Aotearoa before her family moved to Brisbane.
As a Pacific teenager living in Queensland, Joyce always felt the culture there lacked support for Pacific students like her.
“I wanted to be among other Pacific people to learn, be inspired and navigate helping Pasifika,” Joyce explains.
“So, I left my parents and siblings behind to pursue my studies in Aotearoa.
“Though being away from family has been difficult, it has been rewarding to be in spaces with Pacific children who have shared their stories with me and to learn from Pacific teachers who have been willing to share their teaching knowledge with me.”
Late last year, Joyce was presented with the Ministry of Education sponsored Teach NZ prize at the online 2021 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA).
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) PMPYA initiative celebrates success and rewards outstanding achievement by Pacific young people in Aotearoa, and the Teach NZ category award recognises a young Pacific person who is passionate about teaching and has Pacific language skills and cultural competencies.
As the category recipient, Joyce receives an allowance valued at $10,000 to use in her final year of studies at AUT Manukau.
The award signals the Ministry of Education and Teach NZ commitment to increasing the number of Pacific teachers to help make a positive difference to the future of Pacific students.
With dreams of becoming a qualified Pacific Education teacher and to continue working in positions of influence, and as a role model for Education while setting a good example for Pacific youth, Joyce is destined to impact Pacific Aotearoa – and further abroad - in a positive way.
“I hope that in the future, I will be able to use the knowledge I have learned in Aotearoa to assist our Pacific children who are in Australia and in need of assistance in reconnecting with their roots and discovering their cultural identities,” she says.
Joyce says her pursuit rests in her service for others.
“No matter how big or small our actions or service may be, when we are genuine in our intentions to make a difference, those actions will be remembered and appreciated in the future and this is the impact I strive to achieve - in my education, for my aiga, and in my community.”
As the first person in her family to attend university, winning this award has been a huge blessing for Joyce and her family.
“Since moving, my parents have repeatedly told me to ‘Fa'amuamua le Atua’ which translates as ‘Put God first’.
“We believe in God's power and recognise that we would not be where we are today or blessed with what we have if it were not for God.
“Winning this award has served as a great reminder to not doubt my intelligence and to believe in the person my grandparents and parents have prayed for me to be.”
Visit the MPP website to learn more about the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards.