New fund set up to support tertiary studies

Jacob Ermio.

Mount Hutt College is backing a new scholarship and mentoring fund to help immigrant students nationwide seeking tertiary study.

The fund, set up on Givealittle, has already raised $2000.

College principal Jack Saxon was moved to act after encountering student Jacob Ermio, who he described as “one of the brightest stars I have ever encountered”.

Mr Saxon said like any young kiwi, Jacob had big dreams for his future. He would like to go to the University of Canterbury and study engineering.

“Unlike most other young kiwis Jacob doesn’t know if he is going to be able to live his dream.”

“Jacob is one of hundreds of children of migrant workers who have, despite their best efforts, not been able to attain residency. He is locked out.”

Jacob’s family hails from the Phillipines and came to New Zealand in 2008 to support the skilled labour shortage across rural New Zealand, Mr Saxon said.

They have called Aotearoa home ever since.

“They have grown up here, made lasting friendships and invested blood, sweat and tears into our whenua. They are us.”

“Jacob is an exceptional young man. He was deputy head boy of Mount Hutt College, a talented designer, is the 2021 EA Networks Scholarship recipient and was named the 2021 Dux.

“Jacob is an amazing human. He is caring, kind, inclusive, reflective, honest and as authentic as they come – he is the type of person we all want our kids to grow up to be,” he said.

It was a story shared by many other secondary students nationwide.

Mr Saxon has been an educator for the past 20 years. He has been principal at the college since 2019. It was his second principalship.

“In my career I have had the absolute privilege of working alongside some amazing people and guiding some remarkable young humans,” he said.

“Every year in Aotearoa there are hundreds of students across the country, like Jacob, who graduate from their respective secondary schools – many as top scholars. Most have been in the country for over a decade, all have received a free education, yet as their peers ready to start tertiary study, they wait patiently from the outside looking in.”

Mr Saxon said recent one-off changes to the domestic student eligibility criteria offered Jacob and others a pathway to access tertiary education, albeit limited to one to two years, but still gave no certainty with residency.

It was not a magic bullet.

“Residency removes the requirement to pay international fees which will cost … an estimated $40,750 in 2022.

“Residency does not provide these children, these young Kiwis, the ability to access our loan systems.

“It is time that something is done to help those that are locked out – our kids, the future leaders of our communities,” he said.

The group has set up a Givealittle page (!) to help Jacob, and others like him across the country to access tertiary education in 2022 and beyond.

“Our group hopes to set-up a society to provide long term support for these learners through scholarships and ongoing mentoring.”