Boxers, footballers, paralympians, artists, fashion designers and cake makers rubbed shoulders with university researchers, young community leaders and hiphop dancers at Saturday night’s award ceremony for young Tongan achievers.

Young achievers from across the Tongan community were recognised at the Tongan Youth Excellence awards.

Achievements in education, the arts and sport were rewarded by presenters from the worlds of academia, politics, business, community affairs and sport.

The winners of the education award were:

Dr  Ilaisaane Fifita, 31, who recently obtained her doctorate for research on why Tongan and Pakeha women do not smoke.

Fifita, 31, was born in Tonga and came to New Zealand in her last year of high school.

Dr. Sisikula Sisifa, 31, who was awarded a doctorate in Business Management at the University of Auckland for research on management practice in Tonga. She studied projects in Lofanga; Hapai, Fasimoeafi and Moungaone.

In the junior education category, the winners were Tevita Tupou, 18, from Ha’avakatolo.

He was Wesley College Head Boy in 2016 and is now studying a conjoint Bachelor of Commerce and Law at the University of Auckland.

Emeline Mafi, 18, was Aorere College Head Girl in 2016 and school dux. She also won the Alan Watson Performing Arts Award, the Lion Foundation senior prize and won an award for Leadership in Music.

Sisilia Fakalata, 18, from Hunga, Vava’u, was dux of Tangaroa College in 2016 and top academic student in years 11 and 12.

Sisilia is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Arts, with a double major in communications and psychology.

‘Etivise Ha’unga from Masilamea, Tongatapu, won the award for the highest academic achievement at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate and was school Dux. ‘Etivie is studying at the University of Auckland

The awards were presented by the Rev. Dr Nasili Vaka’uta.

The LeVa Community Work Awards were presented by LeVa’s chief executive, Dr. Monique Fale’afa. The winners were:

Veisinia Ha’unga, 22, who works at Yendara Primary, where she is trying to use her talents to give back to the community. She is highly involved with the church youth group and has been a part of community projects in South Auckland since her time in High School.

Sione Paea, 22, of Vavaʻu, is the author of Failure Taught me Better, about his struggle to become successful. He supports the growth of Tongan business in New Zealand and supports community organizations such as Raising Young Pacific Entrepreneurs and TOKO Collaboration.

Mele Tapueluelu, 20, from the village of Loto fale ia, founded 412, a collective of young people that help South Auckland Youth. They collaborate with local organizations such as Manukau library, Auckland museum, and Auckland Council to run free events at Manukau Civic Square as a way to bring the community together. They also work closely with Manurewa High School, running workshops with students encouraging problem solving for issues they are facing.

The Vakatautua Youth Leadership Award went to the following students, who are all prefects at their schools.

Tomasi Manase, Head Boy of Wesley College

Tevita Moti Uilou, Prefect of St Pauls College

Ofa Fakakovikaetau, Prefect of Southern Cross College

Lemeki Namoa ,Head Prefect of Sacred Heart College

Mele Tuipukotu Makisi Ha’unga, Head Girl of Sir Edmund Collegiate 2017

Mele Maka , Prefect of Auckland Seveth Day Adventist High School

The Business award was presented by MP for Manukau East, Jenny Salesa. The winners were:

Fonua Fuavao, 26, of Samsonbuilds. The company was founded with his father and brother. The company is named after his younger brother, who has a disability. The name reminds them daily of the purpose of why they work. The company specialises in putting together exhibition, displays and kiosk at events.

Anthony Hala, 20, of the The Fade Joint.  The company was formed last year and now has three barbers working full time.

Frankie Lolohea launched the   FrancMarie Clothing Brand in November 2015. Her Father inspired her first collection called Francmarie. His work in printing and blue-collar work inspired the entire collection. She designed the outfits for Onehunga rap crew, SWIDT for the Vodafone New Zealand music awards.

Nuiafe Jr. Malupo’s mother taught him how to bake and now he runs the Nui Cakery

He uses creative and experimentation to fuel his passion for cake baking and decorating.

The Arts awards were presented by Dr. Malakai Koloamatangi, Co-Director Pacific Research and Policy Centre and Director at Massey University.

The winners were:

Emily Muli, 22, a singer/song writer currently studying commerce and music at the University of Auckland. She has travelled to Africa as a youth ambassador for World Vision.

Geoff Siale Thomas, 24, is a tattoo artist whose work focuses on Polynesian tattooing, specifically Tongan kupesi.

Jacob Filipe , 21 is a hip hop dancer and teacher who has worked with Fresh Movement, the Freshmans dance crew and Parris Goebels.

Louis Ova, 24, is an actor, model and computer science student. He has appeared in television commercials for All Blacks AIG and Gatorade and was in the Born to Dance movie.

The Junior Arts awards went to the following recipients:

Tiara Alatini from Kolovai, a dancer with Parris Goebel at the Palace Studios. Tiara was in the Bubblegum Dance Crew who won bronze at hip hop world championship.

Selevasio Tuima, 14, has been singing since he was seven. A member of the

Saintzup Performing Arts Academy, he has performed on the Adam and Eve Show.

The sports awards were presented by Dame Valerie Adams

Hemi ‘The Heat’ Ahio, 27, from Fua’amotu, Vavaʻu claimed the New Zealand heavy weight title in 2015, in the Super 8 Fight Night, beating is American Samoan opposition. In the same year he was rated number 31 in the Top 100 Heavyweights. Has been compared to Mike Tyson for his speed and explosive power.

Augustine ‘Mad dog’ Pulu, 27, from  Kolomotua, has been a half back with Counties Manukau Steelers since 2010. He also played with the Chiefs between 2012  – 2016 and currently plays for the Blues. In 2014 he played for the All Blacks and the following year for the All Blacks Sevens.

Lanulangi Veainu, 24, from Matahau, Vavaʻu, has played with the Kiwi Ferns since 2016 and with the Counties Manukau Heat Sevens since 2013. She played with Counties Heat Union, NPC Cup from 2014 – 2016.

Junior Fa, 27, from Vava’u Haʻalaufuli, won bronze for Tonga in the 2010 in the super-heavyweight division. He represented Tonga at the Oceania Championships, winning Gold and multiple silver medals. He is ranked 74th  best heavy weight by Box Rec in the world. In his amateur career Junior beat Joseph Parker.

Solomone Kata, 22, has played with the New Zealand Warriors since 2015, for the Mate Ma’a Tonga from 2014 – 2016 and for the New Zealand Kiwis in 2016.

Tupou Neiufi, 16, competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympic games for swimming. She won bronze in the Victorian Open Championships Bronze in 100m and 50m Backstroke 2015. She is ranked number six in the world for 100m backstroke. Tupou has had left side hemiplegia since she was hit by a car when she was two.

Tupou’s grandmother, Pasini Taukolo, received the award on her behalf.

Junior Sports awards went to the following winners:

Elena Taiseni, 17, plays for New Zealand Volleyball and in 2016 was part of the New Zealand Junior Womens’ Volley Ball team to compete in Asia.

Lemeki Namoa, 17, has been captain of Sacred Heart College 1st XV –since 2016, was an Auckland Rugby Under 18A representative in 2016 and played for Counties Manukau Touch since last year.

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