Hard road to Best award

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

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.

Photo: EMMA WHIT­TAKER

High flier:

Melepueki Lama Vea is the win­ner of a Best Mayor of Auck­land Award.

Con­grat­u­la­tions: Mayor Len Brown com­mends Melepueki Lama Vea on her achieve­ment.

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