Celebrating Pacific STEAM Excellence at the Toloa Awards Night

Posted on 07 March 2023
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E lele le toloa ae ma’au i le auvai  

The toloa bird flies far, but will always return to the water 

On Friday the 3rd of March, Te Hononga Akoranga COMET was honoured to attend the Toloa Awards night, hosted by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP). Over 600 people gathered at the Ellerslie Event Centre for this celebration of Pacific STEAM success 

MPP’s Toloa program is now in its eighth year running, helping Pacific people to thrive in STEAM education and paving a way into STEAM career paths. After a successful round of secondary scholarships in 2022, MPP awarded 250 secondary scholarships and 50 tertiary scholarships this year 

The awards night began with a speech from the current Minister for Pacific Peoples, Hon Barbara Edmonds, who highlighted that 197 of the Toloa Scholarship recipients would be receiving their awards at this ceremony in Tāmaki Makaurau. This was followed by a speech by Hon Aupito William Sio, who was impressed by the resilience of these Pacific rangatahi and who highlighted the importance of supporting the next generation. When our children succeed, Aotearoa succeeds.”

After dinner, the audience was treated to a performance by Kiribati youth from Pukekohe High School. The final speech of the evening was delivered by Toloa alumni Lavelua Kaufononga, who was also a recipient of a secondary scholarship this year.  

COMET was invited on stage to receive an award for their successful Toloa Contestable Funding grant, which supports the continuation of WeSTEM in 2023. WeSTEM project manager, Sneh Patel, believes that providing scholarships at a secondary level is important for keeping students engaged in STEAM and ensures they feel supported in pursuing their interest from a young age. “The awards night reinforces a connection to their roots, showing Pacific rangatahi that they can excel in STEAM education without losing their sense of belonging in the community.

COMET is proud to support the wider Pacific community engage in STEAM through our WeSTEM programme and encourage the use of culturally responsive pedagogies in all teaching and learning. 

The night ended with Minister Sio inviting Minister Edmonds and Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone (Secretary for Pacific Peoples) to siva on stage, reconnecting this celebration with its Pacific roots.

Congratulations to all the Toloa award recipients. We look forward to seeing these students thrive in their STEAM futures.   

For more information on the Ministry for Pacific People’s Toloa program, visit their website.