Ako Aotearoa congratulates STEM awardee at the Pacific Youth Awards
At the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards 2016 at parliament last week, Ako Aotearoa Director Dr Stanley Frielick, proudly presented the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) award to A-grade medical student, James Penfold (20) of Dannemora, Auckland.
Already a strong sponsor of the Pacific Youth Awards, Ako Aotearoa increased its level of support this year to include an internship worth $10,000 – organised through its Pacific Peoples’ Caucus.
Dr Frielick says the intention is that James will participate in a range of activities facilitated through Ako Aotearoa’s Northern Regional Hub in order to inspire and encourage Pacific youth to pursue STEM-related learning opportunities. Details will be worked out with James and the Pacific Caucus in 2017.
A New Zealand-born Tongan, James gained entry into medical school as part of MAPAS, the Maori and Pacific Admission Scheme at The University of Auckland which provides support throughout the admissions process and during studies. In addition to studying, James is tutoring Māori and Pacific students at The University of Auckland. In the first semester, he was a part of the Tuākana tutoring staff, teaching Biology for Biomedical Science to classes of around 30-50 students. Tuākana offers an opportunity for whakawhanaungatanga and group learning to both Māori and Pacific students.
In the second semester he worked for MAPAS, tutoring many of the first year students seeking admission to the medical programme and also teaching Medical Science to classes of 40-50 first-year students. In addition to becoming a doctor, James wants to work with organisations that address Pacific and Māori community issues, such as nutrition and re-employment after incarceration. He is currently working with colleagues on an initiative to address the barriers to Hauora, involving mala’e and marae to determine how best to provide services in an accessible, acceptable and appropriate manner.
James says, “I would love to be able to give back to the Pacific community. Being part of MAPAS has opened my eyes to the disparities and inequalities present in New Zealand. I feel as though being a Pacific doctor in the health work force will help me to address some of these disparities".
“Additionally, I hope to be able to go back to Tonga and do some health work there to improve their health status and also offer opportunities to further health promotion and development. “