Our Kaimahi (staff) Pasifika are here to support you as you navigate your study journey. Meet some of our Pasifika team and check out their tips to help you to succeed.
We encourage you to think about studying as a journey. You are the navigator, journeying through study to reach your final goal – completing your course/qualification.
Our kaimahi are like guiding stars who are here to point you in the right direction and help you to get the most out of study.
Course selection and enrolment
Epinisa Hopoi – Student Advisor/Kaitohutohu Ākonga
- Background: Tonga, Cook Islands
- Villages/islands: Ha’afeva/Vaini and Atiu/Rarotonga
- Languages: Tongan, English
Born in the South side of Auckland and raised between Wellington and Palmerston North and continuing my adult years in Wellington, I have had my fair share of meeting new people by forming awesome relationships. My father is of Tongan descent and my mother from the Cook Islands, I am proud to be culturally immersed.
My working background is within the Education sector. I spent four years in Shanghai and Hong Kong teacher aiding in English. When I returned home to New Zealand I stepped into this role, which has influenced me to encourage our Pasifika people to strive for greatness, and with an amazing Pasifika team it has been possible.
In my role I check applications of potential learners for their chosen programme for approval, review their Record of Achievement with the NZQA, assess CV’s for experience and discuss study options with applicants. If students do not meet a programme's entry requirements I do my best to offer one suitable for their career pathway.
Tip: Are you thinking of changing your career path? We can help you study one course at a time so that you can maintain your lifetstyle but still level up. Call or email today we can figure things out together.
Gemma Kerisiano – Student Mentor / Kaihāpai Pasika Mentor
- Background: Samoa, Tonga
- Villages/Islands: Si’umu Maninoa, Salamumu & Ta’anea Vava’u
- Languages: Samoan, English
Malo le soifua, my name is Gemma Kerisiano. I am a Student Mentor and Kaihāpai Pasika Mentor working in the Learner Engagement and Success Services team.
My father is of Samoan and Tongan descent and my mother is Samoan. Growing up education was always important to me. After high school, I studied at Victoria University where I gained a Bachelors Degree in Education. This would not have been possible without the support from my aiga especially my parents who are the biggest influence in my life. From there, my passion to help and give back to students and the Pasifika community grew, which lead me to my current role.
Here, we support our learners with help on how to navigate online studies, provide study skills and tips, and help motivate our learners to reach their study goals. As a Kaihāpai Pasika Mentor I am also committed to Pasifika student achievement. We are here to paddle the vaka with you as you go on your learning journey. Iif you need help along the way you can always reach us for a talanoa (chat).
Tip: Be curious, ask questions and reach out for help. Use the services and support available to you.
Helen Pesaleli – Student Mentor / Kaihāpai Pasika Mentor
- Background: Samoan
- Villages/Islands: Salelologa, Foua, Gataivai, Sasina, Saleaula - Savaii
Ni sa bula, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Malo e lelei and warm Pasifika greetings. I am a tamaitai Samoa who was born in Auckland and raised in the big Island of Savaii, Samoa. I hail from the villages of Salelologa Foua, Gataivai, Sasina and Saleaula.
Growing up my parents have always instilled in me the importance of education and the importance of using opportunities to learn and to pursue further knowledge. I was an Education and Pacific Studies graduate before I stepped into this role. I am passionate about education, equity and supporting learners to achieve their study goals. As a student mentor I can help you with:
- how online learning works
- how to apply for extensions or special consideration for assessments
- keeping you motivated along the way and time management
- study tips.
Tip: Have a talanoa with me if faalavelaves / cultural commitments come up. We can advocate and support you regarding cultural obligations that can affect your study.
Ondreyah Tupuivao-Fa’atui – Sudent Mentor / Kaihāpai Pasifika Mentor
- Background: Samoan
- Villages/islands: Sa’anapu, Letogo, Fa’atoia and Vaiala
- Languages: Samoan, Māori, English
Talofa lava my name is Ondreyah Tupuivao-Fa’atui, and I am a Pasifika Student Mentor here at the Open Polytechnic. I am of Samoan descent, and I hail from the villages of Sa’anapu, Letogo, Fa’atoia and Vaiala.
I speak the language of my ancestors – Samoan and I also speak te reo Māori. I was born and raised in Wellington, but Samoa will always be home. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading, kapa haka and getting involved in my church community.
My role is to help students navigate their studies and offer guidance. I also have a special responsibility as a Pasifika student mentor which allows me to work specifically with our Pasifika learners and being there as extra support for them on their study journey.
Tip: Need help logging in and finding your courses? You can call, email or book a time so we can talk when it suits you.
Cam Marshall – Course facilitator (Academic Staff Member)
- Background: Samoan
- Villages/islands: Vaimoso, Apia
- Languages: I speak mainly English and Samoan
I am a proud mother of two teenage boys, one in his tertiary learning journey and one on his final year of college. Everyday I am learning from them about the perspective of learning. Their challenges, frustrations and exciting fun activities they are involved in and their coping mechanisms. This helps me evaluate what strategies to offer; positive growth mindset and motivation among many more as a parent.
This is also what I wish to share with you as a learner to help and support you in my role as course facilitator for Small Business Certificate Level 3. Let us remove all the barriers and add some fun in learning!
Tip: We are here to teach and learn at the same time, teaching and learning is our journey!
Maka Toloa – Platform Specialist
- Island: Tokelau Islands
- Village: Atafu
I work in our IT Infrastructure team, where positions cover design, integration, implementation, modification, and coordinating the installation, testing, operation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of hardware and software systems.
I previously worked in our Service Desk team, which is the first point of contact for our learners if they need technical support.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or support. From experience, our Service Desk team is here to help and answer any questions you have.
Pasifika learner support
We're here to help
Reaching out is the first step. We have very talented and thoughtful kaimahi (staff) here who are ready to support you with tips, ideas and support to get you through those humps that we all face during study.
Because of our diversity, we also understand what is to be Pasifika with responsibilities to your family and community. We will always do our best to help you, so if the matter is big or small – reach out.