Young Waihi couple awarded big uni scholarships

21 February 2017

Shaun and Savannah

Shaun McNeil and Savannah Harvey

Waihi couple Savannah Harvey and Shaun McNeil, both 18, have won more than $45,000 in scholarships to study at the University of Waikato.

From the University of Waikato Shaun received a Te Paewai o te Rangi scholarship worth up to $25,000 and Savannah received a $5000 Academic Excellence School Leaver Scholarship and $3000 Te Ara ki Angitū scholarship. Savannah also won a $5000 Perry Outdoor Education Trust head start scholarship, $3500 Waihi Agricultural Education Trust scholarship, and both students received $2000 OceanaGold scholarships. Both are studying for a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biochemistry.

“We’re both ecstatic to have won these scholarships and our families are very proud too,” says Shaun. “I think my auntie was the most excited because she couldn’t afford to stay at uni when she started studying and so she’s glad I’ve got that extra financial support.”

The former Waihi College students are starting their studies in Hamilton this week and are part of the University of Waikato’s Te Ara ki Angitū: Pathways to Excellence programme. Established in 2015, this initiative gives regional students better access to tertiary study through subsidised daily bus services, access to fees scholarships, mentoring and learning support.

“It’s a big step moving from a small town like Waihi to study in the city. The programme will give us and other regional students the support we need to make it a smooth transition,” says Savannah.

While Shaun and Savannah are both moving into College Hall, one of the Halls of Residence on the Hamilton campus, they like knowing that living at home and catching the subsidised bus to university is an option.

“We both love living in Waihi but we’re excited to move to the city and experience what that’s like. Then when we need our small-town fix, it’s just a $1 bus-ride away,” says Savannah.

Five University buses will run from select towns across the Waikato, and will travel Monday to Friday to and from the University during the semester. The buses will bring students from as far as Te Kauwhata, Thames, Matamata, Tokoroa and Te Kuiti, with pick-up points along the way. There’s also a 12-seater bus that runs daily from Waihi and connects with the Thames service in Paeroa.

Once on campus, students will have access to a dedicated pastoral care programme and to a whānau/common room.

“That means we’ll have a space to catch up with other students, some from Waihi, who are in the same boat as us,” says Shaun.

Launched last year in partnership with Tokoroa and Putaruru High Schools in South Waikato, Te Ara ki Angitū: Pathways to Excellence has expanded to include 25 schools across Hauraki, Thames-Coromandel, Matamata-Piako, Waikato, South Waikato and Waitomo-Otorohonga districts. More than 15 students from the Hauraki district are joining the programme this year.

The programme is a key part of the University of Waikato’s regional engagement strategy and regional and district communities are expressing strong support for the initiative.