Two Year 13 Pasifika students have been awarded scholarships to Otago University.

Tiri Teerite is the recipient of a Pacific People’s Entrance scholarship valued at $15,000 and Marao Bio is the recipient of a POPO (Pacific Foundation Studies) scholarship valued at almost $13,000 and includes a place in the halls of residence and mentoring.

Tiri said the scholarship provides her with the opportunity to study where she wants to and be a little more independent.
“I want to do law, but I didn’t want to restrict myself to Waikato.”

Marao said she hoped the scholarship would help her to pass her first year of health science – a foundation programme – and map a path towards becoming a paediatrician.

“I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in medicine. I look up to my dad who is a GP. He’s my inspiration and pushed me to be the best I can be.”

Director of Faith and Mission Susan Brebner said the pair had been outstanding in their service to the school. Tiri has been an active member of the senior council and was the cultural diversity leader.

“When I started here, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do,” Tiri said.

“But the diversity of subjects on offer and the support of my teachers set me up to figure out what I wanted to do, which was law. That stemmed from how I came here as an international student. My parents struggled to immigrate us all.”

Tiri’s family was separated for a while with the children in Kiribati while their parents studied in Australia and New Zealand.
“Through law I want to help make it easier to keep families together as they make a plan to relocate and provide a better life.”

Ms Brebner said Marao had been incredibly generous, and community minded too.

“Last year she applied on behalf of all Year 12 students to attend retreat,” Ms Brebner said.

“The Catholic Character Scholarship was valued at $2000, and I realised I didn’t need such a large amount for just me so I decided to apply for all the Pasifika Year 12 girls. It lessened the financial burden on parents with 13 of us sharing the scholarship equally,” said Marao, who is also of Kiribati descent and was born in New Zealand.

Both students sung the praises of Pasifika Liaison Aliialofa Salima. “Having her here has been like having a big sister. We’d go and see her during lunchtime. She was a big influence on Pasifika girls with her presence and constant encouragement,” Tiri said.

Marao said the warm, welcoming environment of Sacred Heart had helped her grow socially.

“I’m quite a shy person but I’ve learnt how to become social. All the friends I’ve made here have made me come out of my comfort zone. Now I feel like I can use that at Otago to meet new people and have new experiences.”

The girls leave Sacred Heart feeling proud to have been part of the cohort that implemented the Pasifika CCM.

“In 2019 it started off as an Ako and from there it was one period on Wednesdays,” Tiri said.

“Then at the end of the year Pasifika students asked if we could form into our CCM so we’d meet before we go into class. We all felt comfortable around each other, we could air our problems and struggles. We’re quite a loud group with lots of laughing!”

The pair said it would be nice to have each other for company at Otago and while they were apprehensive about the move, they’re excited as well.
“It will be different without our families there and learning to be independent,” Marao said.

“Yes, it’s going to be very different thinking only about ourselves,” laughed Tiri. “In our culture we have siblings around, we have a responsibility for the younger ones, cooking and cleaning. Just thinking of yourself will be quite a change!”