A Stratford student was one of the recipients of a scholarship awarded by Freemasons to celebrate their 125 years in New Zealand.

Recipient Steven Woollaston of Stratford is 26 years of age, yet has crammed more into the last eight years than most people would in a lifetime.

Steven is now studying towards Honours in psychology at Massey University with a research project, 'Investigating the effect of gratitude on wellbeing in schools across cultures', and is destined for a career as an educational psychologist and researcher.

At Massey, Steven achieved a conjoint Bachelor of Arts majoring in psychology and a Bachelor of Science majoring in computer science, and at Victoria University of Wellington he achieved a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics with Distinction.


He also has a Certificate in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages from the International Pacific College in Palmerston North.

Steven spent four months as a volunteer software engineering intern at Payap University's Linguistics Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand, two months as a camp counsellor in upstate New York working with at-risk inner city children, and six months on an academic exchange at California State University in Fullerton.

While there, he helped to build a house in rural Mexico, and each week distributed food to homeless people near his university.

Steven also taught English at Sakurai Senior High School in Nara, Japan for three years. During that time, he took part in various volunteer programmes in Japan and around Asia. Last year he volunteered at Water of Life, an NGO in Cambodia's Phnom Penh, helping teenage boys get an education and stable work.

There he taught English and computer skills and provided live-in support for the boys.

The only qualification for students who choose to enter the scholarship programme is that they have consistent A-grades, are completing a degree and are active volunteers in their communities.

John Litton, the 77th New Zealand Grand Master, says the scholarships are an important part of Freemasons' philanthropy.

He said that given the organisation's 125th anniversary in New Zealand, it is fitting that the scholarships are presented inside the Transitional Cathedral.

"Cathedrals have much to do with our history, as Freemasonry began in Europe when the men who worked as stonemasons, building castles and cathedrals, formed an organisation to protect their specialist engineering skills and pass them on to worthy apprentices.

We are delighted to assist these students because we believe firmly in education, the opportunity it offers and the value it delivers society-wide," he says.

Over the last 37 years Freemasons has provided 1,079 such scholarships, valued at $4.61 million.