In each edition of Link News we SPOtlight one of our SPO Schools Advisers
Tālofa lava, Mālō e lelei, Kia Orana, Bula Vinaka and Warm Pacific Greetings.
My name is Junior Toailoa, I’m a proud Samoan and I come from the villages of Saleaula, Neiafu, Tafatafa and Luatuanu’u. Born and raised in Auckland, I grew up out in New Lynn and attended Kelston Boys’ High School. After high school I enrolled at the University of Auckland and went onto graduate with a Bachelor of Science – majoring in Mathematics.
At the beginning of Year 13 I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to do after high school. I was fortunate to have been approached by one of our Assistant Principals who was recruiting students to be a part of the MATES programme. The AP had said to me that, based on my NCEA Level 1 and 2 results, I had the potential to succeed at University and recommended that I join the MATES programme. I didn’t initially see myself being capable of studying at University and always thought only the smartest of the smartest in each school got in.
I didn’t know many people – let alone any Pacific Islanders – studying at a university so I never really saw myself in that position. This actually made studying at the University of Auckland an attractive option as I wanted to inspire my young brother and family members to also consider tertiary study (or to reach their potential).
The MATES programme was very beneficial for me in transitioning from high school to my first year of university. The relationships I had formed with the mentors made the University of Auckland a very desirable place for me to study. As I became more interested in the university, I had to decide which programme was best suited for me. I followed the same advice I now share with senior students today – select a programme or subject you enjoy or are most passionate about. For me, it was either Mathematics or Physical Education. Long story short, I chose Maths as I wanted to become a maths teacher. I know there’s a need for more Pasifika teachers in STEM subjects, and I thought this was the best way to inspire Pasifika students to dream big, achieve amazing things and continue to break barriers.
Fast forward years later and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work in a space where I can give back to our schools and improve quality of life through education, especially for Pacific people. I’ve always been a big believer in education and I know that study at the University of Auckland gives students the opportunity to become successful, regardless of the programme they choose.
One of my proudest achievements was being a source of inspiration for my younger brother, Lone, during his university journey. I truly believe that had I not studied at university, my brother may not have been able to graduate from university himself. In his earlier years, I was able to provide him with useful tips that had helped me at university. Fast forward to 2020, Lone completed his final semester in one of the world’s top public universities – The University of California, Berkley.
I hope I can help inspire generational change as I continue to serve as a Pacific Schools Adviser.
Soifua ma ia manuia.
Discover the whole team in the Schools Partnership Office.