No harm in applying

posted: 10:30 am - 23rd November 2017
Antony Vavia

Antony Vavia, a Cook Island Maori/Fijian studying towards an Honours degree at the Auckland University of Technology is encouraging other Pacific students who are studying in STEM-related subjects to apply for one of the eight Toloa tertiary scholarships available, valued at up to $25,000 each.

“I was the first recipient of the Prime Ministers Pacific Youth Award (PMPYA) for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in 2015,” says Antony.

“In December 2015, I was recognised with the STEM Award which included $10,000 towards my studies, a mentoring programme with Leadership NZ, and an extra $5000 if I pursued further studies at the University of Waikato.”

“It was mind blowing to be recognised and rewarding for me and my family.”

Prior to receiving the first STEM Award for the 2015 PMPYA, Antony was involved with speaking to secondary school students to help promote Science.

“One of the messages I pushed at the time was not only the magnitude of a scientific career or a positive work/study ethic, but also that I was a Pacific boy dreaming and sharing my messages with other kids.”

“Letting the Pacific community know that they themselves and their children have the capacity to work hard and become successful while we slowly diminish an unfortunate stereotype was all part of the package in public speaking.”

After receiving the STEM Award, Antony’s popularity grew through social media, radio and the news, and his story reached out to many.

“Since then I have worked with an awesome team at the Auckland University of Technology, promoting science to Pacific students in Primary Schools in South Auckland. This is a reward in itself, simply through the enthusiastic involvement of young people, particularly children.”

“My idea of being an Award winner is to give back and do your part to encourage many others to apply,” says Antony.

“The PMPYA STEM Award allowed me to pursue and complete my undergraduate studies not only to an average standard, but it encouraged and supported me to go the extra mile.”

Antony says the recognition opened many doors for him, including the opportunity to study a Pacific Island Coastal Ecology paper in the Solomon Islands.

He also flew to Tonga to assist a Vice Chancellor PhD Scholarship recipient with his studies on humpback whale activity. Both these experiences gave Antony the experience outside of the classroom, to learn and adapt in high social and cultural awareness relating to his own studies in Marine Biology.

Antony’s intention is to continue his studies in the Pacific with assurance that the Pacific community will benefit from his findings.

“Being a scholarship recipient helps a lot. It would have been an expensive journey for me and my family. I encourage our Pacific young people to apply for scholarships. Give it a go, as you never know what other doors it will open for you.”

To apply for the Toloa STEM scholarships click here