Melevesi Mafile'o has one main motivation - making her mum proud.

So when the 18-year-old was asked to write and record a song for a documentary filmed at her school, she knew what she wanted to sing about.

"I wanted everyone to know how well I'm doing. People always make assumptions - that because my mum is a solo mum, with eight kids, they think the worst," she says.

"It's the same about my school - people would ask 'how do you survive?' but I love that school. I loved going there."

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Melevesi's song Under The Bridge was recorded for the Herald documentary of the same name, about a year inside Papakura High School.

The tune runs under the credits, but will also be released as a track for download on Bandcamp.

The budding singer-songwriter, who will begin a Bachelor of Music at Auckland University this year, said she wanted the lyrics to make a statement, but also to inspire others.

"I poured my heart into the song. It was real to me. I wanted to tell people, we are more than what we've been born into, that you don't have to be a victim," she says.

"It's your choice to rise above it."

Her opening line "second-guessing nobody sees the potential that we hold" came from an incident where a friend spoke badly of the school - a decile 1 in the middle of a disadvantaged community.

"That hurt me," she says. "People don't see the potential. Just see domestic violence and that kind of thing."

Melevesi Mafile'o, 18, Singer-songwriter, who wrote the song for NZ Herald
Melevesi Mafile'o, 18, Singer-songwriter, who wrote the song for NZ Herald "Under The Bridge" documentary. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Much of the song has a similar theme, such as the lines: "Broken homes, like being alone that's what everybody sees, broken families lost identities...that's not who we are, we're stars, just give us a chance we'll go far".

Melevesi, who learned to play piano by watching her sister, says is looking forward to university - although she knows she has a long road ahead.

While she has a scholarship to cover part of her fees, it is likely that getting through her studies will still be a struggle with limited funds behind her.

Any money raised from her song will go towards her tuition, bringing her a step closer to her dream of owning her own music school and allowing her mum to retire.

"The sacrifices my mum made for us, I'm so grateful. She's been working non-stop since we were born and I just want to get to a point in my life when I can tell her to rest," she says.

"I want her to put her feet up, have a sleep in."

To download the song Under the Bridge click here.