Not leaving her cultures at the door in order to succeed is a priority for 23-year-old La Rochelle Piacenza Morgan (pictured).
Of Irish/Māori (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Ngāti Porou) and Samoan (Magiagi and Sapapali’i) descent, La Rochelle takes great pride in her heritage.
Although she grew up in Lower Hutt, she has strong connections to Gisborne and Samoa, where she calls home.
Having completed a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Education, La Rochelle is currently finishing her final few trimesters for a Law degree, , with a particular interest in Family Law, at the Victoria University of Wellington.
For the past three months, La Rochelle has been an intern at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) after she was selected for the TupuToa programme.
“TupuToa is an innovative internship programme creating pathways for Māori and Pacific students into careers in the corporate and professional sectors – and I had an interest in learning how to be Māori and Samoan in the work place and not having to leave my cultures at the door in order to succeed,” La Rochelle says.
Last week, the intern was selected from 150 TupuToa interns along with three others, to attend the Career Trackers Leadership Institute conference in Sydney.
“I think my mix of Māori and Samoan is still fairly unique, although becoming more common and it enables me to represent TupuToa in a blended way.
“I like to think they were also impressed with my volunteer work.”
The conference was an opportunity to reflect on where New Zealand and Australia are in appreciating, embracing and acknowledging their indigenous people, La Rochelle shares.
“We were fortunate enough to witness the Aboriginal welcome smoking ceremony and have been able to hear the different dialects throughout the conference, which has been a true honour.
“One of the main takeaways from this conference is to respect the opportunity, and this I will continue to remember throughout my internship and career.”
La Rochelle listened to some inspirational speeches and took part in workshops throughout the conference, focused on preparing university students for life after graduation.
“This conference has also served as a reminder and realisation of what could be if I do not continue to learn and grow in my Samoan and Māori cultures and languages.”
Now back in the country to complete her internship at MPP, La Rochelle says she is thoroughly enjoying her experience at the Ministry, mainly working alongside the Ministerial Team.
“I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong Pacific leaders who are more than willing to guide, teach and mentor me throughout my experience.
“My manager has organised amazing opportunities for me like spending time in the Minister for Pacific People Hon. Aupito William Sio’s office and representing MPP at the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) Awards with Chief Executive Laulu Mac Leauanae last year.”
She says the internship has given her the exposure she needs as she nears the completion of her Law degree.
“It has given me a taste of the working life and what I can expect if I choose to work in the public sector.
“This opportunity has also given me the insight and tools to see what roles and career paths are available to me and my interests,” she adds.
One of the main things which became clear to La Rochelle during her internship is the importance of relationships.
Guided by God and the passion and purpose He has instilled in her, La Rochelle cares about the less fortunate and is always looking for creative and effective ways to add value for others.
“I am motivated by the belief every person should have equal opportunities and rights.
“I would also love to serve in a Māoriand Pacific capacity and ensure our communities are being represented effectively in the future.”
No matter where she works, she will always carry her Pacific values with her and ensure she has Pacific communities’ interests at heart.
Regardless of the paid work she is doing, she will continue to volunteer and get involved in community initiatives that serve the Pacific community around health, equality, mental health awareness, poverty, education and housing, she says.
La Rochelle is one of three interns MPP has hosted over the past three months, as it strives to assist confident, thriving and resilient Pacific young people.