If you ask Tiaki Rhodes (Williams 2017-2020) to sum up his time at St Paul’s Collegiate School with one word, he will tell you it was "transformational".
As the recipient of a Te Amorangi Future Leaders Scholarship in 2017, Tiaki says his time at the school opened doors for him that he never would have considered possible.
The 20-year-old is now in his second year studying a Bachelor of Engineering at Canterbury University and is the first member of his family to ever attend tertiary education.
“Studying engineering at University is not somewhere I ever thought I would end up and if it wasn’t for my time at St Paul’s, I probably wouldn’t have pursued this as my future,” says Tiaki.
Originally from Kaeo in Northland, Tiaki had been studying at Kerikeri High School, but he says by the end of Year 10 his parents Haylee and Darcy wanted to broaden his horizons and his teachers recognised his talents, both academically and sporting.
“My family are not that financially well off so attending St Paul’s would never have been an option for me without the scholarship,” says Tiaki.
In 2017 Tiaki and his family met with then St Paul’s Headmaster Grant Lander who encouraged Tiaki to apply for the Te Amorangi Scholarship, a programme that Mr Lander himself had established in 2011.
“I remember the day I first met Mr Lander at my school interview. Although he is a big intimidating man to some, I saw a man with pride and mana. I saw a man who is passionate about what he does and always
gives 100 percent.”
Tiaki was inspired.
"I made a promise to myself and my family the day I met Mr Lander that if I was given the opportunity to attend St Paul’s I would make the most of it and make Mr Lander feel like he made the right decision in
Each recipient of the Te Amorangi Scholarship is matched with a sponsor for the duration of their study. Tiaki remembers writing letters to his sponsor every term and updating them on his progress.
“I finally got to meet my sponsors in Year 13 which was awesome to let them know how much their support had meant for me.”
While Tiaki flourished at St Paul’s, including being made Head of Williams House and a school prefect in Year 13, his time was not without its challenges. An ATV accident on the family farm in Northland at the end of Year 11 saw Tiaki’s skull crushed.
“It was a miracle I survived. My face was shattered. They had to reconstruct my cheekbone with
titanium plates and screws, and my eye socket and nose were also broken. I was in hospital for two weeks but the recovery was quite a bit longer,” says Tiaki.
When he returned to school the catering team helped with a special no chew diet for him and he says his friends became experts at making him smoothies. It’s an example of the supportive and caring environment the school fosters, says Tiaki.
When he broke his jaw playing rugby in Year 13, Tiaki says they were all smoothie experts.
"St Paul’s creates a community. I enjoyed how close and supportive everyone is and the opportunities that the school offers. There are so many opportunities and I feel proud that I grabbed every one of them that was put in front of me."
Tiaki says he was drawn to engineering after enjoying calculus at St Paul’s and completing some engineering studies. While he was not always the top of his class in maths and science, Tiaki says he worked hard.
“Engineering is something I want to pursue. I really enjoy it and my dad always said if you can find a job that you love doing you won’t have to work a day in your life. My mum and my dad are some of my greatest role models so that’s what I want in my life,” says Tiaki.
In Year 13, St Paul’s careers advisor helped Tiaki identify scholarships at Canterbury University to aid his study and Tiaki went on the receive the Keystone Scholarship which provides $5000 towards his degree per year.
“That has been a huge help for me and again shows the opportunities and assistance that are there if you know where to look and have a bit of help along the way.”
The school’s support did not end there, however. When Mr Lander retired as Headmaster, Tiaki was invited as a surprise guest to speak at his farewell. Following that event, Tiaki was contacted by a former
Collegian of Sargood House, Sam Patterson, who works for Schick Civil Construction.
“Sam offered me work experience over the summer holidays which has given me a really good insight into engineering and been extremely helpful for saving money to help pay for my living expenses while
I am studying,” says Tiaki.
When he finishes studying, Tiaki says he would like to focus on mechanical or civil engineering and in the future, he wants to be able to encourage other young people, just as he has experienced.
“Once I become financially stable, I would like to do what someone did for me. To sponsor a student like me who hasn’t come from much, to show them the opportunities that are available to them and help them achieve their dreams,” says Tiaki.