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Facing adversity spurs STEM student on

Facing adversity spurs STEM student on

  • 11 Oct 2020
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Studying to become a Building Engineer - a field completely dominated by males - Leilani Stowers says the challenges she has faced on her journey to date has made her even more determined to succeed. 

Born in Rotorua of Samoan descent, Leilani moved to Samoa with her family when she was five, before moving back to New Zealand 10 years later.   

She says there were many advantages of being brought up in two different countries – including having the opportunity to experience two cultures. 

The 21-year-old has completed her second year of a three-year Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology at the Auckland University of Technology and is being financially supported by a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship she received at the start of 2020. 

Funded by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Toloa Tertiary Scholarships support Pacific students to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects at tertiary level and increase the number of Pacific people employed in STEM careers. 

Leilani says as the daughter of a Project Manager, growing up she found herself itching to be on every construction site, all the time. 

“I would wake up early most Saturday mornings to leave with my father to setup on site and be present for the morning meeting with everyone,” Leilani says. 

“As I appeared on site more frequently, I was not afraid to get my hands dirty or learn a new skill. 

“I also loved to be a part of a new project from the beginning as I felt more a part of the team. 

“The more time I spent on-site with my father, it ignited a passion inside of me to become an Engineer, working in construction.” 

As she heads into her third and final year of her studies, Leilani says she is moving closer to achieving her goal of becoming an Engineer, and to keep encouraging other young Pacific women to be proud of their heritage and to challenge themselves. 

“Engineers are in demand, especially in Pacific nations to help them develop infrastructure and for economic growth - I feel I can be a positive model to my peers and generations to come.” 

The Toloa Tertiary Scholarship programme has provided so much support to help her achieve her goal, she says.    

“Everyone in the Toloa Programme made me feel a part of the Pacific family, they always kept me informed on what was going on in the community. 

“Through frequent contact I was informed about important updates especially summer internship programmes which could give me the opportunity to appreciate and understand what I am studying in class.” 

Applications for 2021 Toloa Tertiary Scholarships are open until November 9, and Leilani is encouraging Pacific students to apply. 

“It is a beautiful community to be a part of and to further appreciate your heritage. 

“It will give you the chance to push through the hard times and hold onto what you want to achieve for yourself and others.” 

Visit MPP for more information and to apply for a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship.