Fourth Year With First Foundation: A Helping Hand

Kanna Yamasaki

The year I turned seventeen, I received a scholarship from First Foundation, an educational trust aimed at helping financially disadvantaged youth pursue tertiary education. In addition to paying for my university fees and supplying me with a mentor, the scholarship offered me part-time work experience with Madison. Four years on, I’m twenty-one, graduating with two degrees, and about to move city. Having grown up in a struggling, single parent household where my immediate family hadn’t studied past high school, it’s incredibly humbling to be able to look back on everything that’s happened since I first started university.

For a lot of people who’ve ‘made it’, there tends to be this mythology touted about how their success has all been because of the ‘sheer hard work’ they’ve put in. And yes, I have worked hard – incredibly so. But I’ve also been really lucky. Receiving a scholarship was like winning the lottery; I was handed an opportunity by people who saw a glimpse of something and took a chance on me. Knowing where I came from and knowing how difficult it would’ve been for me to finish university without the support I ended up getting, I have a lot to owe to that small gamble.

It goes without saying that education has a huge influence on success in adult life; with education comes greater skills, knowledge, and earning potential. As Professor Jonathon Boston of Victoria University highlights, educational success can be a “mechanism for upward social mobility”. However, his research also shows that there is a relationship between child poverty and educational performance, with those from low socioeconomic backgrounds experiencing far lower levels of educational success than those from high socioeconomic backgrounds.

For the 30% of Kiwi kids living in poverty, this paints a pretty stark view of the future. How many future doctors, lawyers, artists, software developers, or university graduates are we letting slip through the gaps? Investing in our country’s future isn’t just about investing in those already privileged; it’s also about investing in those most vulnerable. Whether it’s through lending your time to mentor someone, or supporting the organisations that get students through tertiary education, the smallest of acts can make the biggest difference. In the end, it’s not about getting a handout. It’s about having just one person point to you and say, “I believe in you. Here is your chance.”


If you’d like to get involved with First Foundation, please visit