Skip to main content

Funding for First Foundation - Strengthening pathways for young people

29 September 2020   /   News & reports
2019 Kiwirail Scholar Nikita Sionetali and her mentor Teresa Toelau

First Foundation has received funding of $235,200 from Foundation North to enable its work supporting talented but disadvantaged young New Zealanders during their journey from school, through university and into a meaningful career.

First Foundation, a long-standing grantee of Foundation North, offers a four-year scholarship programme made up of financial assistance, work experience and mentoring, to young Kiwis with leadership potential but limited resources. Kirk Sargent, Chief Executive of First Foundation, says that this model and kaupapa is tested and proven. “The outcome for these future leaders, their whānau and kaianga is not just their tertiary education, it’s their self-determination, financial capability and resilience that comes with it,” said Kirk. “Their skills as role models and community leaders are needed more than ever as our economy and society recovers from COVID-19. “

The First Foundation programme creates opportunities and strengthens pathways for young people and their whānau who are held back by inter-generational cycles of financial disadvantage. Since the foundation was established 22 years ago, it has awarded 710 scholarships. 69% of scholars are from Tāmaki Makaurau and Tai Tokerau, with 74% identifying as Māori and Pacific.

The ripple-effect of the programme is sizeable - students of the programme are often the first in their family to pursue higher education, and inevitably become positive influences on their whānau and communities for generations to come. “I was the first in my immediate family to go to university,” says Martin La’a, a 2005 graduate of the programme. “I have a lot of nieces and nephews now pursuing tertiary studies. University is not elusive – it’s a real and viable option for them!”

First Foundation has recently had to adapt its model to respond to the stresses of COVID-19. Funding from Foundation North was granted to support the execution of their new strategy and approach. “First Foundation is not a front-line service or charity, and as such many of our funding streams were redirected or severely disrupted in response to COVID-19,” said Kirk. “The sustenance afforded to us through this generous Foundation North grant has meant we’re not only able to weather the storm of this pandemic, but we will continue to grow and deliver important social change through the education and mentoring of Aotearoa’s future leaders.”