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Greymouth teen aiming for film career thanks to scholarship

29 June 2023

West Coaster Maddy Sweetman is loving the challenges of university life in Christchurch and the opportunity to pursue a passion for film and game design.


Maddy Sweetman is loving the challenges of a Bachelor of Digital Screen with Honours degree at the University of Canterbury after being awarded a Te Kakau a Māui scholarship.

As one of the inaugural Te Kakau a Māui scholars at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) Maddy receives full tuition fees for a four-year Bachelor of Digital Screen with Honours degree.

So far, studying at UC is exactly what they hoped it would be. “I’m absolutely loving it and now I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Maddy says. “I’ve met so many like-minded people through my courses. I love the focus on storytelling, but all of the courses really interest me.”


The former John Paul II High School student says university wouldn’t have been a viable option without the scholarship programme, which was created to mark UC’s 150th anniversary.

“Realistically I wouldn’t be here without it,” Maddy says. “Finding out I had the scholarship really set in stone for me that I was going to go to uni. Having that financial security for a four-year degree is so good.”

The 18-year-old’s goal is to major in sound design and work in the film industry, a dream that was hatched after watching movies every Friday night with their film-buff dad.

“Film is my passion and I’d love to work on the practical side as part of a crew on a film set, but I also have a special place in my heart for story-driven videogames. I want to major in sound design because music is a big part of my life – I play the piano and guitar and I sing.”

It has been a big step moving from a Greymouth high school with fewer than 200 students to a university campus with more than 22,000 students, but Maddy says the support that’s part of the scholarship has been really helpful.

“There’s one-to-one mentoring which is a really amazing opportunity, and we have social groups that are a good way to keep in touch with the other people who have received scholarships. They’re all so driven and want to do well and achieve.”

Success coaching sessions, which are led by Te Kakau a Māui scholarships Success Coach Angus Howat, are also a favourite. “It’s nice to know there’s someone there supporting you through these things and you’re not just being thrown in at the deep end.”

UC has created hundreds of Te Kakau a Māui scholarships to help boost equity and overcome barriers to tertiary education and Maddy says it’s an admirable approach.

“I really like the overarching goals of the scholarships programme and how they’re going for leadership and sustainability and looking for young people with potential. I had a rough year last year so it’s great that it’s not all about your grades in Year 13, it’s about having the motivation and the drive to make a difference that’s important.”

Applications for another 150 Te Kakau a Māui scholarships at UC in 2024 opened on June 20 (closing August 15). They are open to students from high schools that were previously classed as decile 1 to 7 (now covered by the equity index) across Te Waipounamu the South Island.

Maddy’s advice to anyone considering applying for the scholarship is to go for it. “Don’t pass up the opportunity, even if you’re not sure if you’re going to get it, you’ve still got a chance. You just need to put yourself out there.”

UC’s Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement, Brett Berquist says the new scholarships can change young people’s lives. “The programme is unique because we are offering mentoring, support and career coaching to our successful scholars, in addition to covering tuition fees for an undergraduate degree.

“It is also innovative because it’s encouraging a wider group of students, particularly those facing financial barriers, to see university as a pathway towards their goals,” he says.

“We’re looking beyond traditional academic performance to find students with a more holistic range of skills. We’re inviting applications from young people around the South Island who want to make a difference. We want to empower them to achieve their goals.”

Greymouth teen aiming for film career thanks to scholarship

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