Scholar Set On Leading By Example



Pictured: Franz Li'iuana (mentor) and Vila Easthope

To be a First Foundation Scholar is to set an example for others experiencing similar circumstances says Class of 2018 Scholar Vila Easthope. 

The 17-year-old Wesley College student was awarded a First Foundation Scholarship at the start of 2019 and plans on attending the University of Auckland to study a conjoint Bachelor of Commerce/Engineering degree next year.  

Being awarded a First Foundation Scholarship has made his plans possible, Vila says. 

Life has not always been easy or stable for the New Zealand-born Samoan, who was raised in South Auckland, and is the eldest of five children. 

“Early on I moved around a bit living with both my parents, then just my father, in a foster home, back with my father, with my uncle and his daughters, and finally with my grandparents,” he shares. 

“At the beginning of Year 6 I moved back with my mum to Manurewa … circumstances however, require my siblings and I to live away from my parents and I currently live in Wattle Downs with my caregivers who I have been with for almost four years now.” 

Despite being raised away from his parents, Vila’s mother would remind him regularly about how important school was, and if he did well in school, he would go far. 

“I knew from a young age, if I was going to make it anywhere in life, it would have to be at school. 

“Although I enjoyed sports, I was never willing to train every day, nor did I have a passion for any particular sport. 

“Although I enjoy doing them, I am not that great at singing, dancing or drawing so I've worked hard in the classroom to gain opportunities like the first Foundation Scholarship.” 

When Vila’s teacher informed him about First Foundation Scholarships, he knew he had to apply. 

Being rewarded a Scholarship means he can achieve his dream of attending university, without the financial stress of having to pay tertiary fees, but with the aid of mentoring, and work experience. 

Vila says with his Scholarship comes the responsibility to lead by example, something he is taking seriously. 

“Only recently, my younger brother came up to me at church and started crying while saying I have always set a good example for him. 

“He said while he couldn’t match me academically, he was training every day and dieting to accomplish great things in rugby.” 

Hearing this from his brother touches his heart, Vila adds. 

“Receiving this Scholarship is another reminder hard work pays off and no matter your circumstances, you can do whatever you want if you put your heart, mind and soul towards it.” 

As part of his Scholarship, Vila will do work experience with Sponsorship Partner Fletcher Building, where he is looking forward to gaining practical workplace and people skills.

He has also been matched with a Mentor Franz Liua'ana, who he can turn to for advice throughout his Scholarship.

“Franz is a good role model for me - he is always positive and loves the work he does as a MultiMedia Specialist at Xero. 

“He is not scared to show his love for his work, and uses that passion to spread messages which positively impact our society.” 

On meeting Franz, Vila felt his positivity and he has gradually become more confident about sharing things with him. 

“Franz has already given me some insight to life at university using his own personal experiences; about what to expect; how to react to certain situations; and finding balance between studies and your personal life. 

“He always checks up on me too see how I’m doing, not just in school but also generally and he attended my school Careers Day and shared his story.” 

To ensure he gets the most out of his Mentor, Vila says he intends to keep the communication lines open and honest. 

After completing his degree, Vila has dreams of contributing to providing for his siblings. 

“I want to gain work experience for a couple of years and then return and do my Masters and hopefully a Doctorate. 

“I want to be financially stable in the future and provide for my future family; and I also want to give back to my community in any way possible, especially to youth.” 

Visit HERE for information on the First Foundation’s Scholarship programme. 

“Receiving this Scholarship is another reminder hard work pays off and no matter your circumstances, you can do whatever you want if you put your heart, mind and soul towards it.”