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Valedictorians celebrate success, diversity, and togetherness

March 22, 2021

Pairama Wright, EIT’s CEO Chris Collins, and Jazz Singh.

EIT graduates Jazz Singh (Bachelor of Business Studies) and Pairama Wright (Bachelor of Arts, Māori, Honours) are this year’s valedictorians along with Wendy Jarnet, who we introduced last week.

Of Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Ruahine, Swiss, Scottish, and Irish decent, Pairama staircased from a level 2 certificate to his Bachelor in Arts (Māori) Honours. Pairama is now studying towards a Master in Professional Practice at EIT, delving into research of Māori language revitalisation. The 31-year-old is also teaching on EIT’s NZ Certificate in te reo me ngā Tikanga (level 4) and puts his heart and soul into it. “I guess teaching is my way of supporting and promoting the revitalisation of our language.”

Pairama says he feels honoured to be a valedictorian, “I actually thought I was in trouble when Puti, the head of Te Ūranga Waka, said she needs to talk to me about something.” Pairama’s speech will be in English as he wants everyone to understand. And yet it will be Māori-centred with a focus on manaakitanga (hospitality, support) and kotahitanga (togetherness) and the various strengths that draw people together.

Jazz, who was “over the moon” to be selected as a valedictorian, will address multiculturalism, diversity, and the value of scholarships that allowed him to travel overseas. He will also talk about the importance of building self-worth, seizing opportunities and changing one’s mindset from “I should do” to “I do”. He says it won’t be a “good-bye” but a “see you again” speech.

Jazz was always very interested in new cultures and diverse thinking. Growing up in a Sikh family in Auckland, he was immersed in the culture, language, and religion that his parents brought from Punjab to New Zealand while also embracing the Kiwi lifestyle. Ten years ago, the family moved to Hawke’s Bay and Jazz’ parents took over the dairy next to Napier Boys’ High School.

In November, Jazz did an internship at ANZ and promptly secured a full-time job as a service consultant. “This new role and a two-week-trip in the South Island, were a really positive end to a tough year where everything had seemed to go sideways.”

Pairama grew up as an army child and moved all over New Zealand. Māori culture and language played a prominent role in his family’s life, his great-grandmother was a fluent te reo speaker and Pairama went to Māori immersion schools. At age 13, when his parents separated, he moved with his mother to Napier and became steadily more alienated from his Māori roots. “It was as if I was scared and ashamed of this part of me, and I had no desire to speak te reo or engage with the Māori part of my family.”

It was only when his dad moved back from Australia with Pairama’s half-sister, who was brought up very traditionally, that he rekindled his interest in reconnecting with Māoridom.

“I was studying music at EIT when my dad, who was enrolled at Te Ūranga Waka, encouraged me to do a certificate in te reo Māori and learn the language. My tutor, Tash, was fantastic and I transformed from a rebellious human being to a better person. I achieved a sense of belonging. It totally turned my life around.”

Pairama’s long-term career goal is to become a te reo Māori linguist and create Māori language resources for all learner levels.