News

First Foundation Student Lafoai Luaitalo makes a positive difference

6th November 2016

Coca-Cola Amatil is a longtime supporter of the First Foundation, participating each year to help Young New Zealanders achieve their goals. First Foundation brings together a diverse group of people to achieve a single objective – to assist academically, students who are talented and financially worthy of support to achieve their potential.

In 2012, Lafoai Luaitalo became one of our first CCA First Foundation students. Lafoai has been working in the NCC for the past 4 years, supporting the team during her school and Uni holidays.

The following article was posted on the First Foundation website, highlighting the great results that these programmes achieve. We are proud to have been a part of Lafoai’s journey and wish her all the best as she heads off to follow her dreams at the end of this year.

Lafoai Luaitalo – Class of 2012

An exceptional student at One Tree Hill College in Ellerslie, Lafoai’s life changed in Year 11 when she went into foster care.

Determined to continue to succeed at school, she poured herself into study and leadership roles; even her friends were unaware of her situation.

Although blessed with a supportive foster family, Lafoai could not see a simple pathway to her ambition of becoming an international human rights lawyer. 

“Being in care, I had no idea how I would fulfil my dream to study law,” she recalls. “But when the opportunity from First Foundation opened up, I saw it as something that could make things work out for me. And it did; it’s been a massive help in all areas of my life.”

Lafoai, who is of Samoan and Chinese heritage, has now completed the first three years of her conjoint degree in law and arts, majoring in sociology, at the University of Auckland.  In her spare time, she mentors other university students, runs a weekly after-school programme for kids in Manurewa, and helps take care of foster children. 

And although her four-year scholarship is coming to an end, the strong relationships she has forged through First Foundation will carry on.
Her mentor throughout the scholarship, criminal barrister Denise Wallwork, says she regards Lafoai as much more than a protégé. 

“My mentoring of her is a lifetime commitment – you just can’t cut off a relationship like this when four years is up. She has become a member of our family,” Wallwork says.

Born in Samoa, Lafoai was initially raised by her grandparents in the villages of Laulii and Uafato. She describes her grandfather as one of her heroes. 

At the age of four, her grandmother brought her to New Zealand, where they lived with Lafoai’s mother in Auckland. “I remember meeting my mum was quite strange – I had no idea who she was,” she says. 

Although she only knew the Samoan language and culture, it took Lafoai very little time to learn English at kindergarten. “I just loved learning,” she says. She excelled at Papatoetoe West School, Kedgley Intermediate, and then One Tree Hill College, where she was head girl in her final year.

“That was an amazing school, and I’m still quite passionate about it. It was a tough time personally, when my circumstances changed, but I used the opportunities that came to me as a way to survive,” she says.

One of those opportunities was the First Foundation scholarship. She was paired with scholarship partner Coca-Cola Amatil, where she has worked every holiday for the past four years, in the call centre. “I’ve learned so much there,” she says. Read more here

More about the First Foundation:

Bringing together NZ businesses, individuals, schools and students, they have a strong belief in the potential of partnership and simplicity of a hand up to make an amazing difference to someone’s impact on their society. The programme removes the barriers that NZ’s most talented but financially disadvantaged students face through a proven and unique 4-year programme… Learn more