In each edition of Link News we SPOtlight one of our SPO Schools Advisers
Te Atiawa (Taranaki)
Māori Schools Adviser
Mauri ora ki a koutou katoa,
Ko Taranaki te maunga
Ko Waitara te awa
Ko Te Atiawa te iwi
Ko Manukorihi te hapū
Nō Waitara ahau
Ko Ella Lyon tōku ingoa
My name is Ella Lyon and I whakapapa to a small Taranaki community called Waitara. I had a humble upbringing in Waitara, living with Mum and Nan. In my final year of intermediate, I reached out to Mum to attend boarding school at Turakina Māori Girls’ College. I will forever be grateful to my whānau for finding the means to send me away, as my high school years were very influential in shaping me into who I am today.
At Turakina I had amazing teachers who challenged me to be a passionate learner. I lived in an environment where Māoritanga, mana wāhine and manaakitanga were at the centre of everything we did. In my final year, our school was closed by the government, but I was able to take the life skills and values I’d developed at school with me. These have since served me well. Despite neither of my parents having gone to university, and being the only one in my school year to choose university, that was my decision. Nan played a persuasive role in my university journey.
For me personally, choosing Auckland came down to a substantial scholarship from the University which I was fortunate to receive. This was the only way I could manage to study; and I’ve never looked back since.
Moving to Auckland was challenging for me, but the halls of residence facilitated a great space for me to find my feet in Auckland. Grateful for this environment, I further served as a Residential Adviser in the halls for two years after my first year in Auckland. This allowed me to support other students in navigating the transition to university which I’d struggled with not so long before.
I was never certain what I wanted to study, and I changed degrees three times before finally settling into a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Māori studies. Māori support staff across the university shortly became my new aunties and uncles, who I would run to for support at every roadblock I came across. I also found a second whānau with Ngā Tauira Māori (UoA Māori students association) – and even today I still spend a lot of time at Waipapa Marae, where I get to know our Māori students well.
Extracurricular activities opened many doors for me while I was studying. My most notable experience at university was my exchange to the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. This was absolutely eye opening as the environment was starkly different from what I’d been used to. I returned to Saint Andrews a year later as an International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference Speaker. And that inspired me to take on postgraduate study. While completing my honours in Philosophy I was also working full time in the Business School as a Māori Academic Adviser, which allowed me to continue supporting other Māori students through their degree.
Representing my whānau, hapū, iwi, school and Māori as a collective has been my key motivation at university. Through my role in SPO as the Māori Schools Adviser I aspire to use my experiences as a way of giving back to other students. I hope to engage with and inspire students with similar backgrounds to mine to take up higher learning.
To support future students and their whānau through their educational journey is the best way I can show gratitude to those who have done the same for me.
Tēnā koutou katoa.
Discover the whole team in the Schools Partnership Office.