Two Different Roads to Success

Jordan Lotoaso and Jocelyn Zeke are ready to make their mark on the world with the skills they learned at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

15 April 2021

Jordan Lotoaso and Jocelyn Zeke

Both have been students at the Wellington School of Business and Government (WSBG) and have gone through the TupuToa internship programme. But their backgrounds and study paths have been very different.

Jocelyn was born in the Solomon Islands. She says, “My father is from the Solomon Islands and my mother is from the Tokelau Islands. They met in Fiji at the University of the South Pacific. They had my older sister in Tokelau, then were based in the Solomon Islands until I was born.”

Unfortunately, the Solomon Islands then went through a period of civil unrest, which meant Jocelyn and her family were forced to flee to New Zealand.

“My Mum used to work in the hospital, and she didn't want us to see how violent things were getting. So, because she and my sister are from Tokelau which is a part of the Realm of New Zealand, they were able to get me and my Dad out. I was just a baby, but they've told me it was pretty abrupt.”

Jocelyn's family settled in Rotorua and moved later to Hamilton so her father could work towards a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Waikato. She had grown up with her Tokelauan grandparents close by, so when her family moved to the less culturally diverse Hamilton, she was secure in her cultural identity.

Jocelyn really enjoyed her time at high school, but as a Pasifika Leader in her final year, she realised there was a lack of representation where non-cultural issues were concerned. “I wanted to have my voice heard on issues that weren't just ‘cultural’. That was when I decided that I was going to study something that would get me a seat at the table.”

Jocelyn is in her final year of a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Management, Pacific Studies, and Public Policy. She has already sat at some pretty important tables since starting her studies, including at the Ministry of Transport through the 12-week TupuToa internship, where she advocated for Pasifika interests. She hopes to continue down this path, using what she has learned to advise on policies that will impact Pasifika people in New Zealand.

Jordan's pathway to University was different. He was brought up in Porirua, participated in Poly Club, and played rugby for Rongotai College. Growing up, he spent a lot of time with his siblings and cousins. He and one of his cousins were the unofficial elders of the cousin squad. They knew they were role models for the younger ones. It was clear speaking to Jordan that his family is everything to him.

Deciding what he wanted to study initially seemed like a no-brainer.

“I did what I was good at. I got enjoyment out of doing well and I had liked economics since year nine. I thought accounting was pretty cool too. But I think towards the end, I started to rely on my natural ability a little too much. When I got to Uni it really hit me hard.”

He began studying economics and accounting. However, after a couple of conversations with WSBG Pasifika engagement advisor Kalo Afeaki, he realised there were other subjects he enjoyed more.

“In my first trimester, I almost flunked both of them.  If it wasn’t for advice from Kalo I would have continued majoring in economics and accounting. She encouraged me to pursue a different major.”

Jordan’s degree really has been a family effort. His mother helped him plan his courses, his uncles made sure he got to class on time and his aunty made sure to look out for his hauora by keeping his gym membership up to date.

Jordan will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Commerce with a double major in Information Systems and Management. He was a successful applicant of the TupuToa program and through that experience secured a job in the IRD's Data Science and Analytics team.  While he might be the one physically crossing the stage this year, he will be carrying his ‘aiga close to his heart.

While at University, Jordan and Jocelyn found their communities in different places.

Jocelyn was outgoing and thrived in environments with lots of people. She made sure she was at Pasifika O Week in her first year and then returned as a student ambassador in the next. She later went on to be one of the Executive of Te Namo, the Tokelauan Students' Association.

Jordan was more reserved. He found it easier to navigate University with support from a few close friends, his family and Pasifika support staff.

Jocelyn and Jordan are the perfect examples of there being no one right way to approach University. They found what worked for them and stayed focused on why they were there.

Both want to make their families proud and be role models for those who look up to them.

Jordan was especially pleased to be able to share his success with his grandmother.

“Not too long before getting the job I’m in now, I'd been caught out by my Grandma. I'd had a hard day at work and was complaining a bit to my Aunt. She must have gone straight to Grandma because there was a lecture waiting for me when I came home. I had to say, I'm sorry Grandma, it was just a bad day and all that. You just can’t keep secrets like that from my Grandma.

“But then I had to use their printer to print out my job offer. I handed it to her and said do you mind holding this for me for just a sec. I turned back around and saw her smile, and then she started crying. I knew she was going to read it. I’m so glad she did.”

Applications for the TupuToa internship close at 6 pm NZT, 30 April 2021.