There is strength in numbers, and the New Zealand Tongan Tertiary Students Association (NZTTSA) is sure-fire proof of this.
Its mission is to provide a platform which brings Tongan tertiary students from around New Zealand together, to encourage and nurture a balance between cultural identity and academic studies.
It is doing this and more.
The association, led by President Mary Jane Kivalu, is a recipient of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) 2018/19 Toloa Community Fund for its Saienisi Programme.
Set up to promote and increase the number of Pacific peoples in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related careers, the Toloa Community Fund rewards groups or individuals delivering STEM activities.
The NZTTSA aims to provide platforms that bring together Tongan tertiary students from around the country.
This is so they can connect with each other in order to build their future social capital, which will allow them to work collaboratively as leaders of the future workforce, Mary Jane says.
NZTTSA includes members from institutions such as: Auckland Institute of Studies; Auckland University of Technology; Manukau Institute of Technology; University of Auckland; University of Otago; University of Waikato and Wintec; and Victoria University of Wellington.
Part of its vision is to improve academic achievements and offer support for future Tongan tertiary students, which is where the Saienisi Programme fits in.
This is a series of career seminars for Tongan students at Otara’s Tangaroa College, and it looks at various careers in the area of STEM and what students - and their parents - need to do in preparation to achieve this.
"Growing up in Otara, I know there is a need for this kind of initiative,” Mary Jane says.
The aim is to teach students how to find the information, and help them realise there are a lot of different career options out there.
“If they're going to decide on a career pathway, we should do our best to make sure they make the most informed decision possible."
Facilitated by NZTTSA bilingual members who can translate if needed, it is ensured everyone at the seminars understands the material being covered.
"The voices in the youth space are stronger now more than ever,” Mary Jane adds.
“We have the passion to make changes in our society, and the Toloa Community Fund is one of the resources to help us do this.”
Through this funding, MPP has given NZTTSA a chance to run projects our communities know are effective, she continues.
“We know what works for our people, and we know what work needs to be done to help our people.
“This is an opportunity to send the ladder back down for those who follow us, and everyone has nothing to lose by applying."
Applications for the Toloa Community Fund open on November 11, 2019. Visit MPP for more information.
Email Mary Jane Kivalu - [email protected] for more information.