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Magic from Mairehau

Jesse Jeffries of Mairehau High School in Christchurch didn’t think he’d be a fit for university. However, a First Foundation scholarship helped him find his passion and excel. Freshly graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, he’s already begun making an impact on the world in a role full of purpose.

Jesse Jeffries from Christchurch, completed his Bachelors Degree in Marketing at The University of Canterbury

Jesse Jeffries from Christchurch, completed his Bachelors Degree in Marketing at The University of Canterbury.

More than humble beginnings

Jesse, Gawith Deans Family Trust scholar 2018, attended Mairehau High School in Christchurch. It had around 500 pupils then, but despite being small, it was full of opportunity. Jesse says the school’s size creates a supportive environment where staff get to know each student – and their potential. 

“The teachers know you individually, and they find that personal connection. It meant I was picked up and encouraged.”

Mrs Robertson suggested Jesse apply for a First Foundation scholarship, and it was just the boost he needed.  

“I decided I’m going to try this university thing. I was always keen on higher education and the university experience. However, I had the impression that socioeconomic barriers would keep me from fully experiencing that. I thought a trade or cheaper pathway would be something I’d be more comfortable with.”


 “First Foundation allowed me to put my best foot forward. And I ended up really, really enjoying it.”

Community of connections

The financial support of the scholarship was important to Jesse, but the programme’s pillars weave together to make its benefits unique. Together, they offer practical, real-world support.  

“There were some great opportunities for connecting with people around me, particularly when we were transitioning to university. First Foundation organised a meet-up with all of the new scholars who were going to Canterbury. It was really nice to connect with other students that would be there.

“That was one of the best parts – the connection. Not only do you connect with your mentor and the First Foundation team, but facilitators also help you connect with those around you who help you along.”


Finding passion and purpose

At university, it didn’t take long for Jesse to find what he enjoyed.

“I am passionate about the areas of marketing related to behavioural change and social marketing. Accompanying this, I have significant interests in psychology and sociology. 

“My end goal is to use the skills I’ve developed throughout my education, work, and life experiences to help solve major issues — such as the climate crisis, poverty and gender equality — to ensure that future generations have a good life. 

“I chose my minor in information systems because it gives me skills that are not only great to have, they are incredibly necessary for success in any contemporary workplace.” 

Jesse’s decisions have paid off. He’s found a role as Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Tātai Aho Rau Core Education, which works towards quality and equity in education. He loves being with a national organisation that’s making a difference. 

“The First Foundation scholarship not only opened doors for me, but it may also help me open doors for others.”


Support to succeed

Jesse wants to see more Mairehau students fulfil their potential, and fortunately, the school has a great track record of doing so. In fact, the small school has had 10 other students become First Foundation scholars. Another is musician and teacher Lorne Joblin. Lorne has his own impressive story of giving back, returning to Mairehau to teach in the music department and also becoming a First Foundation mentor.

“I would say a lot of the time, you may underestimate yourself. You might think that you’re a certain person and that certain people have certain opportunities. However, if you are really committed and you’re really passionate about developing yourself, you can go pretty far.

“Just keep taking the next step, applying yourself and making sure that you take the opportunities that are presented to you.”


Jesse Jeffries (centre) with other scholars from Mairehau High School in Christchurch; and with the 2023 group of completing students and First Foundations’ Awards night earlier this year.