My name is Faiesea Ah Chee. I’m 18 and I’m of Samoan descent. I am currently completing year 13 at Kelston Girls’ College. I am a Stars leader. Being a Stars leader really opens up many opportunities for me. I was never a confident, open minded, involved student when I first started Kelston Girls’ College.
Being a Stars leader was something I never thought I would get. I never thought it would open much greater opportunities for me. I signed up for so many things and all I get is a “try again next time”. As far as I can remember, the last time I had much confidence was when I was in my last school which is the school that I used to go to in Samoa. I was very much confident that moving to New Zealand will give me less problems both mentally and physically. When I arrived, things weren’t working the way I was thinking and expected it would be. I was mocked, bullied for being a fob, a freshie and the fact that students think I couldn’t understand English because I just came from the islands. That’s When my world turned upside down. I didn’t want to talk to any girls in school. I remember my sister was my only best friend.
I remember in level 1 English when we had our speech assessments I was so nervous and I remember calling my friends in the islands to help me write a speech even though I did know how to write one and I can speak English fluently but the judgements just hit me hard. I stayed up late at night practicing, searching up for quotes and how to express myself in my speech. My topic was Cultural Conflict. I wrote down all the challenges that I was facing and I remember checking each word if they were perfectly right. When It was the day to present my speech I couldn’t help but say it. I want them to know how I am feeling and that they could stop. I was talking about isolation, Respect and language and after that speech half of the class congratulated me and half were actually surprised. All I heard was “wow didn’t know she can speak English”. It drags me down because I tried my best to become a better person and to fit in but they just don’t see that effort. I tried every single day of my life to adapt to the different environment. Things changed when I met some of my friends from the islands who came through the same experience and with that group we keep things to ourselves it’s like the more we talk to people about what we went through just makes them think less about us.
Years went by and I started to be involved in school clubs, making friends and started to bring back the old confidence I used to have and by doing so I started to reach out to the teachers, being open minded. I ignored the fact that I was bullied. Then I stepped up. I signed up for Stars with a huge expectation that I won’t get into the program. Surprisingly I got in. With this opportunity it helps me realise that I am important and that what others think of me has nothing to do with the purpose of my life. I also realise that I am the happiest person on earth. I remember the first lesson we had when the mentors grouped us with different girls from each class, they were pretty much shy and that’s when I shine. Having one-on-one conversations with my peer mentors helped me a lot to open up. With every lesson we have each week with our peers helped me to overcome fear and by that I started sharing my experience and what I went through with our amazing mentor Kelly Watkin. She then told me “We don’t need anything outside ourselves to be happy, you focus too much on people’s expectations of you and you are forgetting to love yourself and to be yourself”. With those phrases it really changed my life and as a passionate student about the environment I signed up for environmental committee leadership. I remember when I received an email from my environmental mentors that I got into the environmental leadership it reminded me of a saying from one of our prophets “ Some of our struggles involve making decisions, while others are a result of the decisions we have made. Some of our struggles result from choices others make that affect our lives. We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond. Many struggles come as problems and pressures that sometimes cause pain. Others come as temptations, trials, and tribulations.”
It has been quite a roller coaster ride. You have your good days and your challenging ones, but majority of the time they’re good ones. Meeting new kids with different interests, personalities and backgrounds. One of the things that I realise is that when we do our Stars lessons with the girls and are more open minded with them, surprisingly most of them share their difficulties and hardships with me and we sit down and talk about it and I can definitely understand where they are coming from, how they are going through trying to find answers and trying to overcome their challenges.
Nevertheless, I have been able to connect with everyone that I come across in the school and also our classes. I am myself and I am grateful for this experience to develop my leadership skills and to help those who are struggling, also for the opportunity to be able to lead and guide our young sisters in school through their school years. My experience so far has been really amazing fun and I am blessed and grateful for the Graeme Dingle Foundation for giving me this opportunity for being a Stars leader for Kelston Girls’ College.
Thank you, Faiesea.