When Jonathan Lopeti arrived at AUT from the Kingdom of Tonga in 2014, he was a shy and uncertain teenager. Fast forward four years and the shy teenager has morphed into an aspiring Pacific youth role model and won the Kingi Prize for the AUT Edge Award, having demonstrated significant personal and professional growth and employability.
Jonathan enrolled in the AUT Edge Award to boost up his CV. However, the activities quickly made him aware of the importance of overcoming his shyness to become employable and prove himself.
During one of his first volunteering activities - assisting with a Youth Empowerment symposium at South Campus - he was approached to participate on the Pacific students’ panel during the symposium. Not keen on public speaking and not believing he had much to offer, Jonathan didn’t want to do it.
“I reluctantly agreed because I didn’t want to disappoint the organiser - but on the day my stomach was churning. Then when I went on stage, something changed for me because I saw I was amongst other Pacific Island student panellists and audience and I felt a sense of pride about representing my country and AUT.”
As the event unfolded he realised he did have something to offer as a Pacific student and that his tertiary story could encourage others.
“When the event finished, I felt like I had a sense of belonging with everyone there because they enjoyed my story.”
That experience made him determined to keep learning and developing. And develop he did. He took on a student ambassador role, helped facilitate the PILOT programme, became student representative at the Communities that Thrive Conference, was in a team that won one of the AUT Kickstart competitions and led his team in his BCIS final industry project. All this was unimaginable a couple of years earlier.
It has all paid off with Jonathan landing a prestigious Digital and Technology graduate spot with BNZ.
He says the AUT Edge Award experience was hugely influential on his AUT journey, particularly the leadership aspects.
“These experiences helped me be more certain of my decisions and be confident. The most important lesson that it taught me is to not dwell on my mistakes but learn from them and work to be better.”
Jonathan was one of 32 AUT Edge Award graduates to be honoured at the graduation ceremony on 31 July. His Kingi Personal Growth prize was sponsored by Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of Afive industry partners to offer a prize for the Award for the first time.
The other 2018 industry sponsors were Auckland Council, YUDU, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand and SEEK Volunteer.
The other four prizes acknowledged students who had gone beyond expectations in volunteering, leadership, social impact and overall achievement. The other prize winners were Kelly D’Mello (Volunteering), Maya Jaros (Leadership), Jerina Grewar (Social Impact) and Michelle Young (overall achievement).
Above: Jonathan Lopeti receiving the Kingi prize from IHG human resources NZ director Louise Arnold and IHG operations manager Kahlia O’Shae.
Top image: Jonathan Lopeti at the AUT Edge Award graduation ceremony with partner Tilisi Brigida Foliaki.