Pasifika Futures contributes to 90 year success at Otahuhu College

The strong relationship between Pasifika Futures and Otahuhu College has contributed to the school’s academic success, says principal Neil Watson.

This weekend, the South Auckland college, with distinguished former students like former Prime Minister David Lange, boxer David Tua and Pasifika Futures CEO Debbie Sorensen, celebrates its 90th anniversary.

Throughout the years, the college has enjoyed many sporting, cultural and academic successes, including the establishment of its Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programme, designed to increase the number of Pacific students entering and completing tertiary studies and with millions of dollars of investment from Pasifika Futures to support the career trajectory of our future Pacific leaders.

“The relationship with Pasifika Futures is really pivotal for us to have as a college and to be trusted to help support our Pacific families,” says school Principal Neil Watson.

He says that there are just over 600 Pacific students enrolled in the college this year and there are an increasing number of Pacific students taking up science-related subjects.

“Our results last year were up there with the best in the country for all students, introspective of socio-economic background and ethnicity. This is a credit to our families and their dedication, and it’s enabled by the support from Pasifika Futures.

Pasifika Futures CEO and former student, Debbie Sorensen said at the opening of the college’s new science and technology building in 2016 that the success of the partnership between the school and her organisation relied on the dedication from the students and their families.

“This programme engages the whole family in a STEM programme designed to inspire, motivate, enrich and empower Pacific students to successfully enter and complete tertiary studies and increase the value students and their families place on the opportunities STEM subjects offer as career pathways.

Former deputy head girl at Otahuhu College and Pasifika Futures learning consultant, Jennie Tusani, says her five years at the college helped shape who she is today and contributed to her success in the corporate world.

“What I love about Otahuhu College is that it’s a multi-cultural school and it’s diverse in everything, in sport, culture and academics. You’re embraced with alofa.”

The Samoan mother-of-three says being located in the heart of South Auckland, the school was able to support and cater to the needs of its large Pacific population. She is glad that the school is celebrating 90 years and they have kept their commitment to serving the community.  

“We had teachers that were Pacific and so they challenged us in the right way. They understood the backgrounds that we came from and they were able to connect with us.

We felt like it was an extension of our home. It was a safety net. They knew about our cultural values and understood the struggles we had as Pacific families.”