When Jessica Papali’i-Curtin, a Pacific Health Workforce Awards recipient, heard that she was among a small group of outstanding, young, Pacific New Zealanders to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award, she felt very humbled.
"Inspirational" and "determined" are words Prime Minister John Key used to describe the award winners. To Jessica it means there are people who support her passions and dreams, and think they are worthwhile.
The Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award is an initiative which recognises the achievements and potential of future Pacific leaders. The winners of the award have made enormous contributions to their schools and communities and have also done well academically.
Twenty-four year old Jessica, of Cook Island descent, is currently studying a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) at the University of Auckland. She wants to work with Maori and Pacific families in the field of health, probably as a GP.
The financial assistance Le Va provided made Jessica’s journey into the field of medicine an easier one. "The lack of income associated with being a student is one of the hardest things, especially if you have a family that rely on you."
Jessica believes removing this burden is a great motivator for Pacific students considering studying in the field of health.
Jessica received the Cogita Inspiration Award and it has increased her confidence in what she is studying. Her family was really excited when they heard she had won the award. "I wasn't allowed to tell many of them until the award was announced which was quite hard."
As Prime Minister John Key said, "The winners embody the community spirit and determination all New Zealanders admire." The winners of the award are inspirational to those around them and high achievers in their field.
Jessica’s mum taught her the value of hard work and that education is important. "She manages to run a family, work, serve in church and do well in her study." Jessica's faith as a Christian plays a big role in what she is doing and she believes that bringing her faith with her into all situations will make her a good doctor. "After all, He (Jesus) is talked about as the 'Great Physician'."
Outside of study and being a wife, Jessica likes to sing at church and cook. Her friends describe her as warm, compassionate and devoted.
Jessica went to Chilton Saint James School in Lower Hutt, Wellington. Her grandmother comes from the village of Tongareva and her part Cook Island heritage is important to her. "I think that while it is important to move forward and facilitate change, we must not lose the important principles and wisdom from the generations before."
Jessica is looking forward to making a real difference in the Pacific community. "There are so many privileges and things provided for us that our parents and grandparents never had."
Up and down the country, our young Pacific people are doing great things. Jessica Papali’i-Curtin has a bright future ahead of her.