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Te Awhiroa Lewis Kuka-Sweet

The Bachelor of Māori Language and Indigenous Studies has been the perfect way for Te Awhiroa Lewis Kuka-Sweet to advance his dream of teaching Te Reo Māori at secondary school level.

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“It’s always been a dream of mine to help Te Reo Māori flourish in schools around the South Island and improve the socio-economic status of Māori around Aotearoa,” Te Awhiroa says. “It might be a massive undertaking but I believe with the experience I’ve gained here I can turn this dream into a reality.”

Before coming to Ara, Te Awhiroa worked part time as a DJ on Tahu FM and part time as a nightclub bouncer. He was also raising a child, and found that the support available to him at Ara meant he could study successfully while still being a great dad to his son.

He adds that the environment at Ara has also contributed to his success. “The space, the tutors and the resources available here go a long way towards improving my learning experience. Having laptops and computers available in the library and things like the 24-hour computer pods means that I can plan a lot of my study around my busy schedule. Also having a space in Ara for Māori in the form of Te Puna Wānaka helps a lot as it’s a space that feels uniquely Māori. I instantly feel like I belong, every time I walk in. It goes a long way to contributing towards my studies.”

Te Awhiroa says that sense of belonging extends to the programme itself. “I think where the programme shines is within its nature of pushing students to feel like a collective. I never feel like I'm alone in my studies – there’s always someone who can offer encouragement or a fresh viewpoint and likewise there are students that I'm able to encourage and share what knowledge I have to help them. It’s also a very practical programme; there’s rarely a time when you can’t apply your learning to your everyday life. Things like performing haka whakatau for new students, or students graduating, and overall involvement in these events give us the opportunity to apply our studies in every way we can.”

A highlight for Te Awhiroa has been working on a haka composition for the wider Ara student body and leading the haka at the spring graduation ceremony. “Being a leader is much more than just delegating. It’s about being present within every aspect of the journey.”

When Te Awhiroa completes his degree, he knows he’ll be ready for the next step. “The tutors work tirelessly to ensure that whatever pathway you wish to take with the degree that you have the resources and experience available to facilitate your journey.”