'I love that there is a practicum side to it in which we put what we’ve learnt into practice with actual sporting teams...'
Bachelor of Sport Coaching with an endorsement in Leadership
Health Navigator, Etu Pasifika
Crossfit Coach, Trailblazer Strength and Conditioning
It is easy to see that Mele’s biggest passion is an active lifestyle, so Mele was keen to study a Sport Coaching degree at UC to help build connections to the sporting community.
‘PE was my favourite subject in school, not just because of the physical activity, but because of the interesting things I learnt throughout the subject,’ she says. ‘I thought PE was all about playing games, but it addressed a whole lot of other things that challenged my thinking as well as intrigued me.’
An obviously favourite aspect of her degree was the practical part of the programme.
‘I love that there was a practicum side to it in which we get out of the classroom and put what we’ve learnt into practice with actual sporting teams. Not only does it prepare us, but builds connections within the workforce which therefore benefits us in the long run. I also enjoyed learning the sciences behind exercise and all the other theories that come with the degree.’
Adding to her studies, Mele was also an Intern at UC Sport with the Athlete Development Programme in Strength and Conditioning, contributing to her goal to ‘become a strength and condition coach for high performance athletes’.
During study, Mele had a number of coaching and training commitments. She worked as a Crossfit coach, as well as coaching netball for Hornby High School. Mele also trained in Olympic Weightlifting and competed in events, coming away with the Junior Under 75kgs title for the South Island Weightlifting Championships 2014 and representing New Zealand at the Oceania Weightlifting Championships in New Caledonia for 2014, winning the silver medal.
Choosing to study at UC was especially beneficial for Mele with a number of scholarship opportunities. Enrolling at UC with a Merit Scholarship for her NCEA results in high school, she received the Emerging Leaders’ Scholarship and the Pacifica Scholarship for her first year.
Mele was also part of the UC A+ programme aimed at undergraduate students and their involvement in the Pacific community. Mele won the overall award for the highest GPA of the selected students.
‘I was very thankful and grateful in achieving the highest GPA and giving some money to my parents for all their hard work in trying to get me and my siblings a good education,’ she says.
As part of her initiative to give back to the Pacifica community, Mele became a Pacific Student Mentor through the Pacific Development Team (PDT) helping first-year students adjust to university life.
‘The Pacific Development Team are great in connecting all the Pacific population at University and through this I have made and met some lifelong friends. Through the PDT I received a mentor in my first year and free tutoring which is something every first year wants or needs so this was great! The PDT have played a big role in my University journey and I am thankful to them for all the help and support they have given me.’
While an interest in her studies was a strong motivating factor, Mele hoped that her degree could be of benefit to the wider community as well.
‘I also saw this as a pathway to address the obesity epidemic that surrounds Pacific Island and Māori people and knew I could help make a change in the way Pacific and Māori people see themselves and the importance of their health. I also wanted to promote leading healthy lives upon young teens as well, of all ethnic backgrounds.’
Now graduated, and having completed postgraduate studies in sport and exercise science, Mele has been able to kickstart her career in a range of sporting and health roles.
One of her most rewarding roles is part of the Etu Pasifika medical association, working specifically with the Māori and Pasifika community, and helping create health plans for families and navigate them through the health system. She also runs a weekly exercise group for elderly Pacific people.
Mele also still coaches crossfit with CrossFit Trailblazer, and has now started competing in crossfit competitions.
With so much on her plate and big goals for more study in the future, Mele attributes her faith and family for making it this far.
‘The push and support from my parents and family is what motivates me,’ she says.