News Item

Top achieving Tongan scholar wins PCF award

Success Stories 4 Sep 2019

The Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA) held last week at New Zealand's Parliament House in Wellington was an occasion that celebrated some of the Pacific region's young leaders.

Often referred to as 'Generation 6B's - Brown, Beautiful, Brainy, Bilingual, Bicultural and Bold' by Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito Su'a William Sio, eleven Pacific youth were recognised for their exceptional contributions across eight categories.

"Each recipient is a symbol of the future I see for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa, a rising generation of Pacific people who are confident, thriving and resilient," says Minister Aupito William Sio.

"These young people are effecting positive change that is helping to shape New Zealand where Pacific people are prosperous and achieving wellbeing for their families."

This year, PCF sponsored the International Scholar Award - acknowledging a young person from the Pacific region who is an active leader in both New Zealand and in their home country.

Having supported the awards in March 2018, PCF Chief Executive Don Mann says the selection process for this year was 'tough' as all candidates demonstrated passion and determination in their applications.

However, on the night it was revealed that the winner was Sela Maka - one of New Zealand's top-achieving NZ Aid Pacific scholar who is studying engineering with Honours at Massey University.

Hailing from the village of Lotoha'apai Ha'ateiho in Tonga, Sela also grew up in Fiji where she spent most of her primary schooling years.

The proud Tongan-born scholar was a former PCF summer intern, spending ten weeks at GHD, one of the world's leading engineering company.

Thanking the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and PCF for her award, Sela also dedicated the award to her family, friends and to her late father who inspired her love for STEM subjects.

"I like to acknowledge Ministry for Pacific Peoples for paving a way for our students from the Pacific to gain recognition outside of our homes," she said.

"I'd like to thank Pacific Cooperation for sponsoring the award, I know so many of islanders sacrifice the comfort their own homes to face challenges different from what we've been raised in, and so I acknowledge them as well."

Sela hopes to become a chartered process engineer and will use her award to create an initiative focused on giving other engineering students an opportunity to work on development projects in Tonga.

The 2019 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Award winners are:
  • International Scholar Award (sponsored by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation) - Sela Maka, 20, from Palmerston North and is of Tongan descent
  • Community Star Award (sponsored by Auckland Council) - Janelle Augsburg, 23, from Auckland and is of Tongan and European descent
  • Community Star Award (sponsored by Auckland Council) - Dejealous Sili Palota-Kopa, 23, from Auckland and is of Samoan descent
  • Leadership and Inspiration Award (sponsored by Air New Zealand, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) - Okirana Tilaia, 17, from Christchurch and is of Samoan descent
  • Arts and Creativity Award (sponsored by Creative NZ and Massey University) - Manuha'apai Vaeatangitau, 21, from Auckland and is of Tongan descent
  • Language, Culture and Identity Award (sponsored by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples) - Louisa Vaeluaga, 22, from Auckland and is of Tokelauan and Tuvaluan descent
  • STEM Award (sponsored by Riddet Institute) - Eteroa Lafaele, 23, from Wellington and is of Samoan descent
  • STEM Award (sponsored by Fonterra) - Ioane Fiso, 18, from Wellington and is of Samoan and European descent
  • Business and Entrepreneurship Award (sponsored by Pacific Business Trust) - Keith Toma, 21, from Auckland and is of Niuean, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan and Tuvaluan descent
  • Business and Entrepreneurship Award (sponsored by Pacific Business Trust) - Alexia Hilbertidou, 20, from Auckland and is of Samoan and European descent
  • Commercial and Corporate Award (sponsored by Deloitte) - Tupou Veiogo, 20, from Palmerston North and is of Fijian descent