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Darren Folau

Pacific scholarship

Darren Folau is a self-described life-long learner. He’s passionate about supporting other Pacific people to succeed and live healthy lives. As a proud Pacific person Darren was pleased to be awarded a Māori and Pacific Scholarship from Ara and to set an example for future generations. Through Ara’s Centre for Assessment of Prior Learning (CAPL), Darren has been able to credit his vast work experience towards a Bachelor of Applied Science (Health Promotion).

What Ara programme are you studying through CAPL?

Bachelor of Applied Science (Health Promotion) through CAPL.

What is your current career?

I work for the Ministry of Pacific Peoples as a Senior Advisor for the Southern Region. My work involves trying to get community ownership of risks for Pacific people. There are four key goals identified by the Ministry:

  1. Thriving Pacific languages, cultures and identities
  2. Prosperous Pacific communities
  3. Resilient and healthy Pacific peoples
  4. Confident, thriving and resilient Pacific young people.

I’m passionate about developing ‘Resilient and healthy Pacific peoples’, something which my background lends itself to. For the previous five years I worked for the Solomon Island Police and developed health and wellness strategies for their employees, including a whole fit-for-purpose programme around holistic health.

How did you find out about the Māori/Pacific scholarship?

It was very well advertised through Ara but I also heard about it through all the Pacific networks that I'm involved in.

How did you pitch yourself in your scholarship application?

I’m a mature student in my fifties, so for me the concept of continuing education and upholding a growth mindset really pushed me towards doing this degree. Also, I wanted to be able to prove to myself that everything I've contributed to over the last few years has tangible and recognised value. I decided at my age it was important to upskill and for me this degree was the next step in adding value to my career.

What impact did this scholarship have for you?

It’s just been a really good buffer. I’m a father, a grandfather and a homeowner, so the bills never stop coming. Having that bit of financial relief meant I had more to give back to my family. Also, in being awarded this scholarship it demonstrated to me that Ara valued my contribution to the community.

What would you say to others thinking about applying for scholarships?

There’s a lot of scholarships available across so many different spectrums, it just takes a bit of homework to find out what’s available. If you’re a studious person and you need a hand up, by all means put yourself forward.

Why did you choose to study at Ara?

To do a degree the traditional way, full-time for a few years, wasn’t going to allow me to continue working on my career. When I found out about the Health Promotion degree that Ara offered through the CAPL programme, I knew it was just the perfect fit for my goals. It’s been such a valuable programme for me.

What are your short- and long-term career goals?

For me, I’m on a journey of never-ending learning and education. I’m looking at doing a Master’s in Pacific Health, so this degree has been my gateway into my next step in further education.

In your own words, why is it important to have Pacific change makers in New Zealand?

It’s about setting examples for future generations, standing up as role models. But also, for many Pacific people it’s important to strive for change in recognition of our parent’s who came to New Zealand, and their legacy. They came here to provide us with opportunities and education. So striving for change is a homage to them also.

Pacific change makers show others, ‘if I can do it, you can do it too.’

What advice would you give to others about studying?

Don’t get caught up in the traditional frame of learning. There are opportunities to study in different ways. For me, it was the opportunity to study through a different model of learning, in a more kinaesthetic way which meant I could directly apply my learning. My key message is that there’s more than one way to learn.