James at Keltson Boys in 2014James Tevaga is a ‘proud Westie’ who grew up in Te Atatu Peninsula and followed his brothers to Kelston Boys High School.

Although he was having fun, hanging out with friends and living life, academically he was struggling.

“Everyone else would pick up things very quickly but for me it took a while... I applied for MATES in the beginning of Year 13. I was so happy that I got in!” he says. 

James says his mentors, Max and Kuru, guided him with assignments and pointed out where he was going wrong.

“They would always go the extra mile. When it came to applying for university, they helped out with filling out forms and gave me tips on how to survive university.”

When it came time to choose a career path, James knew he wanted to do something which involved helping people. He set his sights high thanks to help and encouragement from his mentors.

Max and James“I always knew that helping people made me smile. My mentor Max was studying social work. He gave me insight on what it was like to study social work. At the time, I was contemplating on teaching and social work. It was a difficult decision, but I made the right call. I chose teaching and never looked back.” 

James is now a fully qualified and registered teacher, in his third year teaching Year 3 and 4 children at Freyberg Community School in Te Atatu South.

His motivation to help and make a difference remains strong: “If I can be that person to change a child’s life, that brings me joy and fulfillment.” 

It has been 7 years since James left school and he looks back at his time with MATES as one of his highlights.

James set his sights high thanks to his mentors

“Every Thursday, I would get excited for a MATES mentoring session. I am forever grateful for Max and Kuru’s guidance and advice. They helped a boy who was lost to find his way to become a teacher. They helped me figure out what I wanted to do after school. If it wasn't for them encouraging me to pursue studies. I would've most likely not attended university and become a teacher.”

James recommends MATES as hugely beneficial for struggling students: “If you ever have the opportunity to be a part of MATES, take it and run with it! I promise you won't regret it.”