A passionate Pasifika secondary school student who started a festival to share her culture with the community is among a group of Rangitīkei youth being celebrated for their achievements.
The Rangitīkei District Council received more than 60 nominations for the 2018 Rangitīkei Youth Awards, but six stood out from a strong pack.
Jermaine Moke, Mary Laki, Brylee Coley, Olivia Brown and the youth-led groups Kia Tu Nga Rangatahi o Mokai Patea and Rangitīkei College Pasifika Aiga each received an award – and a share of the $2000 prize pool.
Rangitīkei mayor Andy Watson said the winners were dedicated and talented, and had gone up against possibly the strongest group of nominations in the awards’ three-year history.
“It really drives home that these young people are our future leaders of this district and our region, and we’ll certainly be hearing more from them,” Watson said.
Rangitīkei College head girl Mary Laki, 17, won the change maker award for her efforts to promote Pasifika culture, and encourage greater understanding and communication in the community.
Laki started, and was the driving force behind, the first annual Rangitīkei College Pasifika Festival last year – and organised a school team to enter Pasifika Fusion, a national competition celebrating Pacific traditions in dance and art.
Laki said she loved learning about other cultures, and sharing her own, because it made for a stronger community.
“It’s all about embracing each other’s cultures, knowing each other more, and having that respect for each other.”
The award nomination praised Laki for her strong vision and passion for bringing her culture into the wider community.
Her commitment was frequently demonstrated in her day-to-day life – and she often helped bridge the communication gap between staff and students and the Pasifika students who weren’t fully fluent in English yet.
”Mary has been invaluable to her Pasifika peers, making sure all Pasifika students felt confident and comfortable participating in all aspects of life at Rangitīkei College.”