A changed attitude reaps reward

From misbehaving year 9 student to Head Boy, Alexander (Alex) Faifailoa is described by those who know him as exactly the kind of student who deserves a scholarship to study at Victoria University of Wellington.

Alexander (Alex) Faifailoa stands in front of a wall covered in paint handprints

Alex is one of seven recipients of the recently established Ngā Hoe a Kupe Pathfinder Scholarships and will receive $7,000 a year for the next three years towards his undergraduate studies at Victoria beginning 2018. Funded by the divestment of the Victoria University Karori campus, the scholarships support students experiencing disadvantage from seven secondary schools in the Wellington region.

Abandoned by his birth parents, Alex was fostered alongside his five older sisters by his “beautiful” nan who wanted to see him and his siblings grow up together.

“Nan didn’t want to take just one of us, because she thought we would then be separated for the rest of our lives.”

He began Wainuiomata High School under the shadow of his older sisters. Three of them had dropped out early and told Alex he didn’t need to be serious about high school.

“For me, things didn’t come too easy growing up.”

The turning point for Alex was in year 11, when he realised that behaving badly in the classroom didn’t reflect who he really was.

“I realised that becoming a better person didn’t mean I couldn’t crack jokes—I’ve just chosen to laugh from a different point of view.

“Everyone can change the way they think—it’s all about your mindset.”

With a changed attitude, Alex invested in his sporting passions—both rugby and basketball—and surrounded himself with inspiring classmates.

“I remember stepping into my school’s First XV Rugby team and being surrounded by school leaders. I wondered if I could be just like them?

“I didn’t have a mother or father to teach me how to throw a rugby ball or that you might have to stay up late at night to study hard and finish homework.”

It was the belief of his mentors—both on and off the field—that led to him being Head Boy at Wainuiomata High School in 2017.

Alex is excited to begin his studies at Victoria University and plans to study Psychology and Criminology.

“Everything I do at Victoria I want to make count towards working for the New Zealand Police Force.”

Alex says the scholarship has helped relieve the financial stress on his family. “It takes the pressure off my family—my aunty and nan—who do everything for me. They’re extremely happy for me.”