She’s made her mark in Marlborough and now well-known rangatahi Te Ao Mārama Nepia is off to the capital to do the same, with the support of a strong homecrowd.
The 2022 Marlborough Girls’ College manukura head girl had one last important appointment before she packed her bags for Wellington: a ceremony at Omaka Marae where she was presented with the Marlborough Lines Tertiary Scholarship for Māori for 2022.
Set up in 1997, the scholarship is offered to a tertiary student who resides in the Marlborough Lines catchment area and who has links to one or more of the tangata whenua iwi in the catchment area – Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Toa Rangatira ki Wairau, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Koata, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui and Ngāi Tahu.
To date, the scholarship has supported 27 Wairau locals in their tertiary studies, including Te Ao Mārama’s father, cultural development expert Kiley Nepia.
Marlborough Lines Tertiary Scholarship selection panel member Rita Powick was at the presentation ceremony at Omaka Marae on Tuesday.
“It was a wonderful celebration. Te Ao Mārama is an exemplary model of te ao Māori and so to see such a beautiful, culturally strong taiohi of Te Tauihu receive this scholarship was really heartening and a really proud occasion for so many.
“Te Ao Mārama is a tribute to her whānau, her marae and her iwi. She works hard and applies herself to all that she pursues, she’s an inspiration for our tamariki and rangatahi and we are really excited to see her spread her wings and continue her studies.”
Te Ao Mārama (Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāi Tahu) has already achieved a lot in her 18 years: as well as being manukura head girl, Te Ao Mārama has taken part in cultural development and leadership initiatives since she was 12. More recently, with her younger sister Māreikura, she helped develop a programme designed to develop the cultural capacity and confidence of rangatahi. She has also twice been awarded MGC’s Kath Hemi Award for service, leadership and academic achievement and has represented her school, iwi and marae at the regional and national Ngā Manu Kōrero Māori speech competitions. She also has her own small business, The World of Light, and has recently launched a clothing line, Tita.
This year though, she says her main focus will be business studies at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University.
“I am so grateful for this scholarship, it will go a long way to helping me cover my study costs. I’m really excited to be attending university and I want to thank everyone who has supported me on my journey so far.
“I feel really fortunate to have grown up with a strong sense of cultural identity and love being of service to my people and community. My Māori culture is my superpower and I want other rangatahi to believe that as well.”
Te Ao Mārama’s father, Kiley, said it was a proud day, made extra special thinking about the role Te Ao Mārama’s kuia, the late Kath Hemi, played in establishing the scholarship in the late 1990s.
“We are so proud of Te Ao Mārama’s achievements and the various roles she plays within her iwi, marae and the wider community. It was really special to be able to acknowledge the scholarship and the support of Marlborough Lines, not just for Te Ao Mārama, but for all our tamariki and rangatahi, so that they can see what is possible, see what excellence looks like from a Māori point of view, and see it is within their reach as well.
“We want to thank the village who have helped contribute to her growth, we are excited to see her flourish in the next stage of life.”