Amaia Watson is proud of her Māori culture and language and wants to use her passion and connection to her heritage to improve society.
Being outnumbered by males is par for the course for Napier Girls’ High head prefect and sister of five brothers, Amaia Watson.
But this time, the scales have tipped, with Amaia being one of three young women and two young males receiving the prestigious Te Ara a Kupe Beaton Scholarship.
The scholarship, worth up to $ 25,000, was founded five years ago to encourage young Māori representation on the global stage. Whether it is law at the University of Auckland or computer science at Stanford, these scholarships encourage local students to follow their passion and pursue their most ambitious dreams.
Amaia says the application process was straightforward and she is honored to be a recipient.
“The process consisted of a few different stages. The first was a Crimson (educational support organization) application form found by my dad that asked for your academic transcript, pepeha, two-minute worldview video and a personal statement. I was in peak internal season, so I almost didn’t apply, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. “
In the next round Amaia had an interview with one of the Crimson judges, Karen Ross.
“She was absolutely lovely. We had a really nice conversation and she said something at the end which made me leave the interview feeling proud of myself whatever the outcome was going to be. She said, ‘If young people think and act like you then I have trust in the future ‘. “
The last stage was the webinar where she found out she was part of a group of 16 finalists, before checking online where the five successful recipients were announced.
“I feel very humbled and grateful. It’s taken a few days to settle in because it’s such a large scholarship. However, now I’m really excited because the realization of this opportunity has kicked in.”
Amaia is planning on heading to Otago University next year to study law and environmental science.
“I am excited to go with the flow and find out what opportunities present themselves after studying.”
Amaia wants to gain work experience overseas, learn, travel and possibly study more so she can understand how other groups operate and what might work back home.
“After that I want to come back to New Zealand and settle down in Hawke’s Bay, using my new knowledge to benefit my hapū and the local community.”
In the meantime, there is no slowing down for the successful scholarship winner. Amaia has learned about time management and life balance as she juggles prefect duties and extra-curricular activities.
“It’s a tight squeeze that’s for sure. My parents are really good at making sure I’m not burning myself out but all the extra-curricular activities I do are ones that I love and so I make time.
“Over the years I’ve learned more about balance and so I’ve had to make difficult choices to cut some things out, and say no. My favorites are still debating, netball, kapa haka and anything musical. I also have to make time to do absolutely nothing, or just hang with my friends. “
Amaia also works at a local catering company on weekends or for any upcoming event.
“It’s the perfect job for me because the hours are very flexible. Last summer I realized I needed to start saving money for university so I got a job at Tumu Timbers. That was a really fun experience because I was working in Health and Safety so I learned some really valuable skills.I formed a really good bond with my boss there and they’ve asked me to come back in each school holidays to do more work.These past holidays I worked in the engineering department, organizing their stores and spare parts. “
Amaia says receiving the scholarship will take a lot of pressure off her when studying.
“It will definitely take a big chunk out of my student loan when studying in New Zealand and if I decide to go overseas it would help hugely in funding that endeavor. I am so thankful to Crimson, Jamie and their team for that.”
In her role as a manukura (head prefect), Amaia is striving to provide leadership with particular focus on making her school inclusive for Māori and Pasifika students.
“This is an awesome opportunity. As a young Māori girl passionate about tikanga, this role gives me the ability to be an advocate for Māori girls. I wanted to contribute to a school where young Māori and Pasifika girls feel safe and included.”
Amaia believes Māori values can be used for the improvement of our society and the health of Papatuanuku.
“We celebrate connection, or whanaungatanga. Connection to our environment, our ancestors, our community, through our whakapapa and through our obligations as kaitiaki.
“I have a lot to learn about this yet, but I can see how those values will be really important in law and protecting our environment, including Papatuanuku.”