The most inspiring part of an internship is learning you are capable of being what you dreamed.
That is the view of Amber Te Tau, who is completing her Bachelor of Science majoring in genetics at Massey University.
Te Tau was one of the speakers at the signing of a partnership between Pūhoro STEMM Academy and MidCentral District Health Board this month.
The partnership will open up more opportunities for rangatahi (youth) in the health sector and support ongoing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) development for Māori.
Pūhoro and the DHB agreed to walk alongside each other to support, nurture and develop confidence in rangatahi, and help them succeed with their educational and employment aspirations.
It is Pūhoro's first health workforce pathway.
Te Tau (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne) represented the rangatahi of Pūhoro academy at the signing celebration. Her journey with Pūhoro began in 2017 as a Year 12 student at Palmerston North Girls' High School.
"I joined Pūhoro because I wanted a bit of extra support with my studies, I did not realise how good of a decision that was. Since then, I have been supported through my final years of high school, encouraged to undertake a bachelor's degree, and offered opportunities I simply could not refuse."
She said Pūhoro helped her pass her NCEA exams through its tutoring programme. They held wānanga days at Massey where she could interact with other Māori students and explore science in new ways.
"I attended a Year 13 camp where I was exposed to aspects of my culture I had never truly understood. I finally realised how lucky I was to be born Māori. Then they offered me a scholarship to attend university and kept in touch with me while I navigated this new space."
During her degree, Te Tau did an internship with Fonterra's research and development centre. "I was surrounded by role models who were in a profession I was passionate about - although I did not realise how passionate I was until I had this experience."
After her second year, she completed an internship at the Riddet Institute.
"I was given a product development project, and wow. It was awesome. A new team of researchers to look up to, network with, and learn from. With their help I successfully developed a novel hemp-based yoghurt - that's right, hemp: something I was not aware was possible."
She felt like a proper scientist.
Last summer, Te Tau returned to the Riddet Institute to aid a PhD student with her genetics-based project.
"I now want to challenge myself with further study and attempt a PhD in the future. I want to express how I never would have had these experiences if it were not for Pūhoro. The team is the most caring, passionate, and inspiring crew I have had the privilege of working with."
Te Tau now works at Pūhoro as tutor lead for Manawatū. "I get to give back to the programme every day through this mahi. I get to actively participate in the supporting of tauira (students) through tutoring, while knowing that it really is making a difference."
Internships helped her learn her goals are attainable and as a young Māori you bring a unique perspective to everything you do.
MidCentral DHB chief executive Kathryn Cook said the celebration truly brought joy to her heart.
MidCentral was the first DHB to enter such a partnership, which would ultimately support better health and wellbeing for Māori.
The DHB is the largest employer in the district but Māori only make up a small proportion of staff. "We need a workforce that reflects our community."
Cook told Te Karere there would be practical scholarship opportunities, mentoring, coaching, internships and jobs.
Pūhoro chief executive Naomi Manu said she was so grateful for the realisation of the agreement.
Young people are likely to participate in the same employment as their parents or people their parents know. The partnership would expand the horizons of rangatahi.
Manu told Te Karere rangatahi would be matched with people who would be able to clear the path for them to enjoy health careers.
Pūhoro Charitable Trust Board co-chair Robin Hapi said the partnership provided the expectation signatories would work together to enhance each other's mana and the beneficiaries would be rangatahi.
The partnership would allow rangatahi to pursue opportunities and disciplines previously denied them - science, technology, engineering and maths with a foundation of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge).
Hapi encouraged everyone to pursue together those things that are of importance to them. If we are to falter, it will be before a very tall mountain, he said.
Dr Philip Suisted, a MidCentral obstetrician and gynaecologist, said the partnership promised a Māori way of doing things that was so vitally needed to lift health outcomes for Māori.
Suisted recalled he was asked as a young man why he wanted to be a doctor. The answer he would give today and gave at the signing was a long and at times humorous one.
He wanted a job that didn't limit his options, and would always be relevant.
"I want more than a job, I want a role. I want to give part of me to my community. I want to be a leader in my community."
Suisted wanted to be there for people when they are most vulnerable. "I want to save lives, preferably two at a time."
Launched in 2016 in Palmerston North, Pūhoro was developed in response to national low engagement of Māori in STEM-related career pathways that subsequently leads to lower numbers of Māori representation in science and technology industries in Aotearoa.
It now also works in South Auckland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Christchurch, developing rangatahi to be active participants in the STEM economy of tomorrow.