Two Rotorua rangatahi want to inspire more young Māori to pursue careers in medicine, business and law.
"If young Māori see other young Māori in higher positions, they will aspire to that," Blue Simpkins-Jones says.
Simpkins-Jones and Koan Hemana, both Year 12 students at Rotorua Boys' High School, have won scholarships worth up to $20,000 to help them get into top universities overseas.
Now in its fourth year, the Te Ara a Kupe Beaton Scholarship was founded in 2017 to encourage young Māori representation on the global stage. Recipients receive personalised mentoring and education services.
Both Simpkins-Jones and Hemana were eyeing up Harvard University as a future study option.
They said the scholarship would help remove the barriers to getting into an ivy league university. Simpkins-Jones planned to study law or business, and Hemana was set on medicine.
"I was pretty ecstatic. I feel at ease that I got the scholarship because it does really help with my future," said Hemana.
"The scholarship has helped many young rangitahi before me get admission into ivy league schools. It is just helping us get around the different systems.
"If I wasn't to get it I would sort of be working in the dark, and I wouldn't know where to go. I am unfamiliar with the SATs [scholastic assessment tests], which are fundamental to getting into these schools."
Simpkins-Jones, who was in awe over his win, said a portion of the scholarship money would go towards mentoring.
He said the highlight was seeing the faces of his family brighten up when they heard the news.
"It was just a lot of excitement," he said.
Hemana said he was motivated to study medicine because there needed to be more Māori working in the health sector.
"We sort of dominate the wrong side of health. We are the ones who are suffering, instead of the ones who are helping most of the time. That sort of drives me to change that," he said.
Simpkins-Jones said he wanted to help rewrite Māori stereotypes.
"It is about changing the stereotypes of Māori being either gang members, drunks, and mischievous to Māori lawyers, Māori businessmen and possibly a Māori prime minister."
Hemana said he was inspired to apply for the scholarship after seeing other young Māori excel.
"It was important to see other Māori excelling. Nothing is impossible, you can just strive for whatever you want.
"A couple of months ago I considered it impossible to go and study at such a high level, but now my eyes are sort of open to all the possibilities. It's a good feeling, and it's a feeling that everyone can get."
Rotorua Boys' High School principal Chris Grinter said both Simpkins-Jones and Koan Hemana were outstanding young men with "big ambitions".
"It is a great honour for the school to have two of our young men receive these prestigious scholarships," he said.
"More so, it's a great tribute to the two boys that they were able to compile an application that captured such high standards and quality that obviously gained the approval from the judges.
"Both boys are outstanding young men, good friends and both with big ambitions and a big desire to take advantage of education and build strong careers that will benefit their people and their chosen careers and I'm confident these boys, in the fullness of time, will have that impact in both career and community that I refer to. "
He said the school congratulates the pair on their wonderful achievement.
Judges in the 2021 scholarship include Shay Wright, the Rt Hon Sir John Key, Jamie Beaton, Karen Ross, David Buisson, Lily Holder McFlinn and Sam Taylor.
Taylor, a former Mount Maunganui student who was awarded the scholarship at 15, had aspirations of becoming the first Māori Prime Minister.
After three years of mentoring and tutoring with Crimson, he secured a perfect SAT score and was accepted into Harvard University.
Crimson Education chief executive and co-founder Jamie Beaton, who founded the scholarship programme, said it continues to guide and mentor a high calibre of students to access priceless education opportunities.
"The Te Ara a Kupe Beaton Scholarship is an opportunity to celebrate Māori high school students who are blazing a trail through high academic performance, brave innovation and exceptional community leadership," he said.
The award ceremony was held Sunday evening. Other scholarship winners included J'adore Harris-Tavita (St Kentigern College, Auckland), Maia Royal (Selwyn College, Auckland) and Ella Arthur (Campion College, Gisborne).