Why First Foundation

Make an Impact >

Schools and Students




Reflections from Richard

It has been a privilege to be part of the First Foundation and especially to Chair the board over the past few years. As I reflect, I’m struck by the transformation of our scholars and also of the organisation. Our three pillars of mentoring, work experience, and financial assistance have proven to be a hugely impactful and a sound foundation for growth. We’ve supported young people to navigate the often-daunting journey of higher education, provided them with valuable work experience, and supported them financially through their studies.

Rich Easton, Board Chair from 2019 - 2023

From the moment I became the Board Chair, I’ve seen First Foundation’s agility in adapting to change. We had to hire a new CEO and bring in five new trustees. But this was an incredible opportunity, and we quickly formed a strong team. Together, we have been able to guide and support the Foundation through some very difficult times.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was the impact of COVID-19. We were left wondering if we would be able to continue supporting young people through our scholarship programme. Not only did our board, Kirk and his team rise to the challenge, but our supporters also stepped in and showed how much they valued the programme. They made sure that we could maintain a lifeline for our existing scholars to continue studying, and this led to us helping the most young people in our history. 

Financial assistance is vital in helping young people unlock their potential.

When a family is struggling, the prospect of a huge student debt can be a deal breaker. Our scholarship partners, funders and supporters ‘get’ this. Their commitment shows they see the benefit of giving diverse, intelligent and driven rangatahi the opportunity to thrive and share their talent.

The quality of our mentoring sets First Foundation apart. I am blown away by the positive impact these relationships have had on both parties. When you’re working alongside one of these outstanding young people, you learn just as much about what the next generations are thinking as you give back to them in terms of the support and guidance that you have.

Steven Carden founded First Foundation because he saw the power of connections and resources many take for granted. Opening up the world of professional experience remains a critical pillar in our programme. We’ve had to be innovative to keep delivering this during these last few years of lockdowns. Again, the team and community pulled together with virtual internships and exciting online options. 

I have been amazed at the resilience and determination of everyone involved in First Foundation. They’ve stayed focused on our goal of giving talented young Kiwis a hand up to access higher education.

As the effects of Covid-19 and economic strain continue to bear down on us, First Foundation’s work is more important than ever. I feel that the challenges we’ve faced have strengthened us. Our processes have been stress-tested, our team is confident and focused, and our vision is clear. I can pass the baton knowing the new Chair is well set up to lead that next charge. The organisation has the skills and talent to ensure that it is successful and continues to increase its impact. 

Looking back, I am proud of what we have achieved as a team. We have helped hundreds of young people achieve their dreams, and we have made a real difference in our community. But I am also aware that there is still so much more to do. There are still too many young people who are struggling to find their place in the world and who need our support.