Tongan university students give back to the community through MATES Samantha and Ane-Grace, who are both Tongan and studying at the University of Auckland, share their experiences as MATES mentors 2022. Being able to give back to the community and support the younger generation growing up in a similar style is the purpose of joining MATES. Tell us a bit about yourself Samantha: I’m a NZ-born Tongan currently doing a postgraduate diploma in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland. Outside of study, I dance in a hip-hop crew called Nappyboyz in South Auckland. I enjoy listening to music, watching basketball and spending time with my family. Samantha at MATES Graduation Dinner 2022 Ane-Grace: I’m a second-year student at the University of Auckland studying a Bachelor of Science specialising in Biomedical Science. I’m also Tongan. Why did you join MATES to be a mentor? Samantha: Being a part of the MATES programme was something I wish I had done when I was in college. I love working with students and I am enjoying the experience I have had this year. I’m looking towards a career in teaching, but I haven’t found enough clarity in the age group I want to teach. MATES has given me the opportunity to experience both helping intermediate and high school students. Ane-Grace: I joined MATES for work experience and a chance to give back to the community, especially to the younger generation growing up in a similar lifestyle as me (a minority in a low socio-economic community). I hoped to show that our circumstances don’t need to hold us back from our passions. What did you enjoy most during the MATES sessions this year? Samantha: What I enjoyed the most during MATES was the opportunity to work with students from different backgrounds. All my mentees brought out different sides of me, depending on their educational needs. Seeing these students work independently and set goals for their future was inspiring. It was also an honour to be a part of that, even if it meant just listening to them and being there with them. I am grateful to be a part of this programme and to get to work with such amazing people. Ane-Grace: I loved the friendships formed through MATES. I enjoyed being able to use my mistakes as a learning curve for someone else. I had seven mentees at three different schools whom I hope felt open to talking to me about anything. Ane-Grace at a MATES session What did you learn during the year? Samantha: MATES has taught me how to adapt to different environments to cater to different people. I thought I was confident before, but I’ve found a different type of confidence. My mentees have taught me resilience, hard work and the importance of nurturing relationships. Ane-Grace: Every session was a welcome break from my own intense academic work and gave me a balance. I also learnt from the junior mentees, as they were always so full of energy and excited to learn something new. Watching the students enjoy every moment was also a lesson for me to focus on the present. Was there a special moment during your time with MATES? Samantha: A special moment with MATES was seeing my mentees unload all their talents so freely and being part of a space that caters to everyone, no matter their background. Ane-Grace: Seeing the excitement on my mentees’ faces when they told me about their acceptance to their school/job of choice or a successful scholarship application. We are now accepting Mentor applications for 2023. MATES has over 100 mentor positions to fill each year. If you are a reliable, committed tertiary student who genuinely wants to see young people succeed and develop, MATES would be a rewarding experience for you. Mentors need to be in tertiary study in Auckland, at least 2nd Year, with transcripts, references, and a clean police record. We accept students from any tertiary institution. To find out more, or to apply, please click here.