Ella Cameron-Smith has been a part of the Pūhoro STEM Academy since its pilot programme launched in 2016. Since then she has grown tremendously, learning more about herself, her culture, and what is available for her in the future.
At the Ka Hao te Rangatahi – STEM Futures Symposium she shared that being involved in Pūhoro has helped her identify her passion.
“I was in the vet programme at first, but after visiting the recycling centre in Palmerston North I decided to change to engineering. We met a man there who was using traditional Māori practices, using our own ways to give back to the environment”.
Ella’s passion for the environment and the decision to pursue engineering was further solidified through a visit to NASA in Houston – a fully-funded trip provided for select students in the Pūhoro Academy.
“I’ve always underestimated myself but after visiting NASA in Houston it really clicked that I shouldn’t sell myself for any less than what I am. I came back and changed my subjects to biology, and now I want to be an environmental engineer.”
Ella was motivated to share with others what she had learned, even going so far as to influence her school to be more sustainable.
“I’m on the student council at my school, where we don’t have recycling. I thought that wasn’t good enough so I took it to a a board member who supported me and they’re now installing a programme in our school for recycling.”
As well as introducing recycling to her school, Ella was instrumental in the introduction of tikanga Māori.
“I’ve just started Māori lessons and through my role as Vice President I’ve started to bring tikanga Māori into our school. As a result we now start our assemblies with karakia. I’ve also made proposals to the Principal about other things like teaching students about the pride in doing our haka.
All of this has been accomplished by Ella in spite of a challenging learning disability.
“Last year I found out - after a bit of reluctance from teachers and my friends to get tested - that I am dyslexic.
“The type of environment we have at school doesn’t cater to my needs or disabilities, but when I’m here at Pūhoro it doesn’t matter because they have a culture of belonging. We’re engaged because we belong and that leads to success,” said Ella.
The vision of Pūhoro STEM Academy is to build Māori leadership and capability. It is evident through Ella’s story that they are succeeding in doing so. They, and the students they continue to support, undoubtedly have a bright future ahead of them.
Te Puni Kōkiri are proud supporters of the Pūhoro STEM Academy and the outcomes it is producing for rangatahi Māori throughout Aotearoa.
For more information on the initiative visit the webpage by clicking the link below.