Hard road to Best award
MELEPUEKI Lama Vea is proving her doubters wrong.
The odds of success were not stacked in the favour of the 19-year-old university student who has won a Best Mayor of Auckland Award.
The awards are a partnership between the Best Pacific Institute of Education and Auckland mayor Len Brown and recognise the achievements of past students.
Best is the country’s largest private training establishment and targets the Pacific community.
Education was an important part of Miss Lama Vea’s upbringing, but her ambitions were derailed when she was 9.
Her mother died of cancer leaving her and her siblings in the care of extended family.
‘‘Even though the family was there to look after us it just didn’t feel the same,’’ she says.
‘‘We just didn’t have that mother figure to look up to.’’
At 16 and with no qualifications the Mt Roskill resident dropped out of high school.
‘‘It just wasn’t for me,’’ she says. ‘‘I didn’t fit in right with the whole big classroom thing.
‘‘I was pretty much told I was a failure and I’d never get anywhere.
‘‘I felt useless, like there was no point in even going to school.’’ After spending a day at Best’s New Lynn campus she saw an opportunity to make something of herself.
In two years she completed a certificate in business administration and computing and is now 18 months away from graduating with a bachelor of business from AUT University.
She is majoring in international business and tourism and next year will spend six months overseas as part of her studies.
‘‘I’ll probably go to London or New York, but I don’t know yet,’’ she says.
‘‘It’s unbelievable. I just didn’t expect I would get to where I am now.’’
Continuing her education has not been easy.
‘‘For me it has been people looking down and stress,’’ she says. ‘‘I would say to others ‘just don’t give up, ask for help, nobody is perfect’.’’ Miss Lama Vea also works as a student ambassador helping other Best students.
The second of the inaugural Best Mayor of Auckland awards given out this year went to musician and composer Poulima Salima. Both winners met Mayor Len Brown last week.
Mr Brown says: ‘‘We recognise there is still much to do to lift educational achievement in the Pasifika community.
‘‘The Best Institute is playing its part as a major tertiary institution where Pasifika students achieve highly across the board.
‘‘The Mayor of Auckland awards are designed to further encourage that success,’’ he says.
Best’s marketing projects planner Claire Foster says it was Mele’s ability to overcome odds that made her stand out.
Melepueki Lama Vea is the winner of a Best Mayor of Auckland Award.
Congratulations: Mayor Len Brown commends Melepueki Lama Vea on her achievement.