Two Far North student teachers have been awarded a prestigious Kupe Scholarship worth more than $15,000 to support their study.
Jasmine Pirini, from North Hokianga, and Muritere Apiata, from Kawakawa, were presented the awards by Associate Education Minister Tim Macindoe in a ceremony held in Parliament.
The prestigious scholarships recognise highly accomplished Maori and Pacific students and support them to complete their teaching qualification and gain further success teaching in New Zealand.
Kupe scholarship recipients will have their course fees paid; receive a $15,000 study allowance, professional mentoring and assistance with finding a job.
Ms Pirini, of Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri and Ngāti Hine descent, is in her second year of study towards a bachelor of education degree at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi.
She has a lifelong interest in the wellbeing of children and education. Six years ago she founded a playgroup. Combining her passion for enhancing Maori children's learning and for the environment, she's keen to be the kind of teacher that exposes her students to the environment, outside of the constraints of classroom learning.
A university graduate, Ms Apiata, affiliates with Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa and is studying at Waikato University towards a graduate diploma in teaching secondary school.
She is a fluent te reo Maori speaker and holds a Ngā Mana Whakairo a Toi Bachelor of Māori Performing Arts degree from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.
A performing kapa haka artist who has lead one of Te Tai Tokerau groups at Te Matatini, Ms Apiata is a noted cultural ambassador for Ngāpuhi who performs for international visitors and delegates.
Both women hope earning the awards will inspire others.
"Kupe Scholars seek out far horizons and chart new territory on our quest to succeed. It's not every day your selected to be one of 30 recipients throughout New Zealand to receive the Kupe Scholarship and as such I am honoured to be able to receive this scholarship on behalf of my whānau and Ngāpuhi," Ms Apiata said.
"The funds will go towards my studies at Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato as I pursue my Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching Secondary. It is not to assume I get the money and run, however there is a lot of expectations and criteria to meet the requirements of the scholarship, which is where the challenge lays.
"But through my determination and motivation to achieve at a high educational standard, in time I hope the youth of tomorrow will see this and be inspired to be the next recipient of the Kupe Scholarship."
Ms Pirini said she was inspired in primary school at Flatbush, in Otara, by a teacher Mr Scanlan and she hoped she could similarly inspire others.
"I was absolutely overwhelmed [to have won the scholarship] and so grateful. But it didn't really hit me until I was in Parliament with all the other scholars and the Associate Minister."
She said education was so important to lifting Maori aspirations and she hoped that her winning the award would inspire others to follow suit.
"First and foremost I want to help raise educational achievement for Maori, where the statistics are very low. I want more Maori to know that they can achieve anything if the work at it and through education we can succeed."
Ms Pirini plans to complete her degree then teach in the school environment, preferably in te tai Tokerau, and long term she plans on completing a masters or post graduate degree with a focus on science.
Each year, 30 Kupe Scholarships are awarded to Māori or Pasifika students based on strong academic success and demonstrable leadership experience in their respective communities.
Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary, Early Learning and Student Achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the Kupe Scholarship continues to attract high-calibre scholars.
"These individuals are passionate about their respective communities," Ms MacGregor-Reid said.
"The scholarship gives them the opportunity to continue making a difference. Behind each recipient is an incredible back story of drive and purpose that has got them here today and they should be congratulated for their efforts."