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First Year With First Foundation: Dear Past Kanna

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Kanna Yamasaki

First Foundation is an educational trust that aims to help financially disadvantaged youth by awarding scholarships to those who may not otherwise be in the position to pursue tertiary education. The First Foundation Scholarship is based on a four-year programme that includes financial assistance, a mentor, and paid part-time work experience with a scholarship partner.

In 2011 I was awarded the First Foundation Scholarship through the Madison Group. This particular scholarship was in memory of Rebecca Morgan who was a member of the Madison team from 2003 to 2004. This year is my first year as a BA/BCom student at the University of Auckland.

Dear Kanna of the past, circa April 2011,

When you think about 2012, you probably think about your last year of high school. You probably think about something mundane like which English teacher you’re going to have or what you’re going to be wearing to the school ball or how embarrassing it’s going to be when your sister starts attending the same high school as you. The truth is that 2012 isn’t going to be your last year of high school. Instead, it’s going to be your first year of university, your first year of having a ‘proper’ job, and your first year of having to make decisions in your life that actually matter.

PastIn a few months’ time, you’re going to apply for a First Foundation Scholarship on a whim. It won’t even occur to you that you might actually receive it, but you’ll fill out the forms and apply anyway, even if it is just for the sake of applying. A couple months later you’ll begin to receive phone calls and emails inviting you to interviews with scholarship partners who have shortlisted you. You’ll laugh dubiously but you’ll polish your shoes and attend the interviews anyway. A thought may cross your mind regarding your chances of being chosen, but you’ll be too busy staring in awe at how fancy the offices look to even comprehend what’s happening.

At the end of the year, you’ll receive a letter informing you that you’ve won the scholarship with the Madison Group. You’ll attend the awards ceremony and you’ll meet Rebecca’s family and you’ll begin working at Madison. You’ll make the difficult decision to leave high school and you’ll start university in February. It’ll all happen so quickly and none of it will seem real.

Then one day, you’ll be on a late train home from a day of university and work and it’ll hit you just how much your life has changed. A small part of you will miss the comforts of high school and a large part of you will be sleep-deprived from working on assignments all week, but you’ll realise that if it weren’t for this scholarship, you wouldn’t even have these things to complain about in the first place. For the first time, you’ll realise the magnitude of what has happened, and for the first time, it will all feel very real.

Good luck,
Kanna, April 2012