Senior high school students from throughout the region were given a massive dose of inspiration at the Tūrangatahi conference hosted by EIT and Te Puni Kōkiri.
They had the chance to meet with some of the brightest young achievers who started their lives and their schooling in the region from Hicks Bay to Wairoa, most of them at small schools like Waipiro Bay and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kawakawa mai Tāwhiti (Hicks Bay).
They included business owners and directors Sheridan Beer, Luke Fox, Keelan Poi, Alice Hunt and Nikki Kennedy, and degree and post grad students Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Moerangi Tetāpuhi Taylor-Tihore, and Te Kahu Rolleston.
The conference was the brainchild of Massey University Agri-Commerce student Keenan Kaiwai, Ngati Porou, who has developed a passion for Māori achievement, particularly in his home region.
Since starting at Massey, he had become disturbed about a stigma attached to Tairāwhiti, that included all the highest statistics in all the wrong areas, especially among Māori. And yet he was also aware of a huge pool of home-grown, East Coast talent that was not being recognised.
Sadly the tall poppy syndrome was alive and well among Māori, maybe through perceived need for humility but “it hinders our confidence,” he said.
He wanted to do something that would help young people from Te Tairāwhiti not only celebrate their success but use it to influence others who wish to follow the same path.
With the help of people like award-winning film producer Bailey Mackey and Project Rangatahi founders Rahiri Makuini Edwards-Hammond and Pahemata Robinson, Keenan was able to draw together the panel of people he thought would inspire students to continue to make something great of their lives.
“They were all people who not long ago were wearing the same school uniforms as the students that were here today.”
The guest speakers were able to share their passions, struggles and their achievements. Many of the students said they found this very motivating and for most, it was also an opportunity to share their own dreams and aspirations with like-minded individuals