“The evening was filled with clapping and cheering every time a student's name and their iwi or pasifika affiliations were called. There were even offers to matchmake students into an iwi because of the skills they have now acquired. It's important to stop and pause to say, you've got this, well done and keep going, and that's the purpose of Ruia Mai," says Deputy Chief Executive Kaiarahi Allie Hemara-Wahanui.
For students who are eligible to graduate, Ruia Mai forges a connection to the formal graduation ceremony taking place on Friday 17 February 2023.
"Graduations acknowledge the success of ākonga. It is the most important event in the academic calendar, and we want more Māori and more Pasifika to walk across the stage wearing their official academic robes."
The celebration kicked off with live music from Unity, kai and refreshments before Pastor Solo Stark (Vaimoana Pasifika Trust) and Haydn Te Ruki (Ngāti Tūparikino hapū) welcomed whānau into Te Piere. All ākonga received taonga and guest speaker Jack Kirifi (TRFU) shared words of support and encouragement.
The BJ Hetet Award, in honour of former tutor BJ Hetet who passed away in 2019 was awarded to Kim Prince who completed a Bachelor in Applied Management and is now working for Citycare.
To bring the evening to a close, Executive Director John Snook spoke poignantly about the three yeses, ko ngā tōru ae.
“The institution has to say “yes” and we do this by valuing exit criteria over entry criteria, inclusive pastoral support and bicultural staff and facilities, the whānau has to say yes, and it does that by understanding the importance of education, supporting the learner with their study and by being there in the tough time and the third and most important yes, is the one that ākonga says daily when they front up, get involved and get through their study.”
A special mihi to Dinnie Moeahu (NPDC Councillor), Mitch Martin (Whyora), Mel Wilkie (Taranaki Futures) and Rita Rukutai (Ngāti Tūparikino hapū) for their support.