Pacific high schoolers encouraged to be tomorrow's leaders

More than a hundred Pacific Year 13 high school students from 30 high schools across Auckland recently attended a special programme with a vision to inspire them to achieve their very best, and assist them to explore and make informative decisions for their educational and career pathways.



The Pacific Island Leaders of Tomorrow (PILOT) engaged students in a variety of interactive workshops which covered key skills such as readiness for future challenges, leadership, financial literacy, and goal-setting.

Students also got to hear from influential Pacific youth speaker and AUT student Joshua Iosefo who inspired attendees with stories of his education journey at AUT.

AUT PhD in Accounting candidate Agnes Masoe, who also spoke at the event, encouraged students with her key to success: work hard, practice and persevere. Event organiser and AUT South Campus Community Engagement Manager Jody Jackson-Becerra, says that the final year of high school could be a challenging time for many students.

“Year 13 high school students are suddenly confronted with having to make some really big decisions about what direction their lives should take after high school, and it can be overwhelming,” she says.

“Through PILOT, we empower these young Pacific leaders to achieve the best they can. By clearly laying out the potential paths they can take, participants gain a better idea of what they need to do to achieve their dreams.”

Year 13 Mount Albert Grammar student Latisha Isaako says her biggest takeaway of the day was to not be afraid of change.

“Change is inevitable,” she says. “My dream is to work for the police force and I feel really confident about the future after today’s session.”

Officially launched in 2010, PILOT is a collaboration between AUT and several other tertiary providers including University of Auckland, Victoria University, Unitec, Best Pacific Institute of Education, NZMA, Auckland Institute of Studies, Media Design School and MIT; as well as Crown entity Careers NZ.

Jackson-Becerra says the overarching aim of PILOT is to bring these Pacific students together and show them what they can achieve after high school.

“We want to start investing in our future leaders now.”

Arizona Leger – why PILOT matters


PILOT 2016 was extra special for AUT Bachelor of Communication Studies second year student Arizona Leger.

The AUT Bachelor of Communication Studies student first attended PILOT in 2011 as a Year 11 student at Epsom Girls Grammar School. This year, she was the MC.

Arizona explains how the PILOT programme came into Arizona’s life at a pivotal point of her life.

“2011 was my first year of having to make decisions about what I wanted to do after high school, and also my first year attending high school in Auckland  I remember feeling very overwhelmed and confused.”

“PILOT opened my eyes to the different options I could have after Year 13,” she says. “I also got to meet students from other schools and I remember leaving my day at PILOT feeling supported and valued.”

As MC, her aim was to encourage other students.

“Being able to come back and emcee for PILOT has been really humbling because they are allowing me to have my own go at positively impacting the next generation of student leaders,” she says.

“I was super nervous but the PILOT team always had my back and have invested so much in me as a person. So I wanted to pass on a message of empowerment just as the PILOT team did for me.”

After high school, Arizona decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a TV or radio journalist through the Bachelor of Communication Studies at AUT. Fast-forward three years later, she now works part time with radio station FLAVA 95.8 while finishing up her studies.

She says AUT and PILOT have played significant roles in her education journey.

“AUT and PILOT have been there for me since Year 11 when I started thinking about university options. The PILOT team were always so approachable to answer any questions I had and AUT made my transition from high school to university absolutely seamless.”

Her advice to Year 13 high school students? “Find what makes you tick,” she says.

Arizona says the first step is to find out what interests you and what challenges you enjoy overcoming.

“Choose somewhere that you think is going to inspire you every time you walk onto campus. Trust your gut feeling, if it feels like a place that you can call home, then you are most likely onto something good.”

“Ultimately, as long as you have a passion for what you want to learn, there is nothing that can stop you from fulfilling your dreams.”