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First Foundation helps Kaycie make her path

Kaycie O’Connor is a 2012 Fletcher Building scholar from Rotorua. Her journey to university and in her career has the momentum and magic that every gifted young person deserves to experience.

Now, three years into a marketing management role at Wide Open, Kaycie is still in touch with her mentor Helen. She is thrilled about the difference First Foundation has made in her life.

Kaycie with her mentor Helen Jones

“This scholarship provides so much more than monetary value; it gives life skills that have provided me with the means to achieve, along with a support network that’s priceless.”

“It has pushed aside the boundaries I faced entering tertiary education by giving me a foot in the door. It provided me with someone as lovely as Helen Jones as a support person, as well as all of my other First Foundation family,” said Kaycie.

Kaycie grew up in Rotorua, so going to university meant stepping up to a new level of study while also leaving her hometown and family.

Kaycie said, “At first, moving away from home is hard. Knowing I had a mentor in the same city really helped me adjust. And it aided me throughout the degree with my transition into adulthood.” 


“I always knew that if I had a niggling question about a project or a flatting situation, Helen was there to offer her guidance.”

First Foundation workshops in Hamilton also helped Kaycie build a network with other Waikato scholars. “The workshops gave us local connections and made it easier for us all.”  

Kaycie earned a Bachelor of media arts at Wintec. She sees her degree as a process of discovery. “I learnt more about painting, drawing, sculpture, and other disciplines. It allowed me to discover my love for printmaking and design.”

During her study, Kaycie found internships with some of the most prestigious practitioners in her field. She says, “Looking back, I was only able to get those roles because of the confidence Helen helped me to build. It would otherwise have been daunting.”

Kaycie stayed focused on realising her dreams, going on to earn a postgraduate diploma in Public Relations. She said this gave her tools to apply her creative skills in the commercial world.

Kaycie O'Connor
Kaycie O'Connor

“I believe that if you choose a path that aligns with your passion, you’ll find the greatest success.”

Kaycie said, “I’m so pleased I decided to pursue something creative!” And it’s paid off. She loves her role as Marketing Manager at Wide Open and has created a life where she’s truly thriving.

“My job has a lot of variety – from promoting brands and helping retailers with their marketing strategy to running our ambassador programme.”

“I’m also involved in speedway, and I’m a super active person. I’ve recently started running and mountain biking. I’m curious to see where this can lead and how I can challenge myself.”

Kaycie treasures her relationship with First Foundation and aspires to become a mentor herself. In the meantime, she wishes to share her thanks with all of those who support the First Foundation. 

“What you’re giving people is invaluable; it can’t be measured.”

“There’s a big financial aspect, but it’s worth so much more. What you gain through the mentorship opportunity adds those extra layers and makes the First Foundation so unique.”