Déjealous Palota-Kopa attributes her success at the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards to the diverse communities she has served as well as her loving and hardworking parents.
The 23-year-old Law and Pacific studies student from Auckland is one of two Auckland Council Community Star recipients, and she will receive a three months' paid internship at Auckland Council, valued at $10,000.
Déjealous is determined to use this award as an opportunity to bring about positive change among Pacific communities, she says.
“I hope to share the inspiring stories of the amazing people I have worked with through this award - stories of triumph through adversity.
“I believe as world citizens, we hold a responsibility to simply spread love and light and I wish to share the love and light within me with others, especially our young Pacific people, so they may find their way in whatever darkness they may face in life.”
She also hopes to use the internship to gain insight into the programmes, models and frameworks used by Auckland Council to address Pacific issues in Auckland.
Over the past few years, Déjealous has been active in the community, from being the President of ASTRA Auckland (community service club); Coordinator of health packs for Starship; an Ambassador for the Heart Foundation; a Marshall for the annual PRIDE Festival; a blood donor; and fundraising for the Breast Cancer Foundation.
“All this was done out of my passion to love and serve others,” she adds.
Déjealous has always had a particular passion for working with youth with disabilities and for the past five years, has worked closely with the special needs community, volunteering for Recreate New Zealand, Star Jam, and Auckland Down Syndrome Association.
In 2016, she received the SunPix Emerging Leadership Award, and more recently, became the first runner-up for the Miss Samoa New Zealand pageant.
Déjealous says she feels deeply honoured and blessed to receive the Community Star award, and her parents should be recognised for the part they have played in her success.
“Despite migrating to New Zealand from Samoa with nothing but hopes and dreams, they somehow managed to gift my two younger brothers and I with a life nothing short of beautiful.
“For instilling within me values of love and service, for encouraging me to pursue boundless opportunities, for supporting me in all my crazy endeavours, this award is a tribute to them.”
Looking ahead, Déjealous intends to continue working alongside youth with disabilities; Pacific students from low decile schools; troubled teens; individuals suffering from dementia; wahine facing breast cancer; children with life-threatening diseases; and also our impoverished communities with the hope she can be a voice for them.
“I am a strong believer our micro efforts ultimately have a macro effect and I wish to use my heart of service and invest all the time I have around studies and work to making a positive difference in the world, especially my Pacific brothers and sisters.”