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Values and family at the heart of mentoring

David Gawith is someone who cares a lot about the future of the world. And as a First Foundation mentor, he’s found a new way to contribute to a better tomorrow.
David Gawith with his mentee Ethan Andrews

David is a natural resource economist who works to influence climate change, energy and water use, agriculture, ecosystems, and public policy. His degrees include a PhD from Cambridge and a Master’s from Otago.

From family involvement to First Foundation Mentor

David is also a trustee of the Gawith Deans family Trust, which gives to First Foundation and has supported 18 scholars since 2014. David says the Trust seeks out opportunities to create real impact through education and for young people. First Foundation is outstanding in this way.

Through his role in his family trust, David was able to see how effectively the pillars of the First Foundation programme work together.

“The model is especially powerful in its long-term view and because the intervention happens at such a formative part of life. It creates impact that reverberates for generations,” he says.

Seeing the worth of the mentoring pillar, David recently stepped up to give his time as well.

“I recognise that in my life, I’ve always had people to talk to and to help with navigating important transitions. I’ve benefited from strong role models and mentors. I could see the value of being there to do this for someone else.” 

“I’ve benefited from strong role models and mentors. I could see the value of being there to do this for someone else.”

Creating connection and confidence

David was paired with Ethan Andrews, 2022 Auckland Transport Scholar. Ethan is studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce and Global Studies at the University of Auckland. The two have been meeting every month or so over a smoothie or at a juice bar. Early on, David also introduced himself to Ethan’s Mother.

Ethan says, “I met David at the start of Year 13. My mum was stunned and amazed by David. In particular, his values are everything Mum wants for me. He is very respectful, well-mannered, knowledgeable, and incredibly smart. I’ve loved learning how he goes through his day and career path; he can share things that are so different to my own experience of life.”

mentoring, mentorship, giving back

With Ethan’s family at the First Foundation Awards ceremony in 2022


The admiration goes both ways; David speaks highly of his mentee.

“Ethan is very engaged, reliable, and interesting. It’s humbling for me to see how much value he places in the mentor relationship.” 

The two have been able to work through all sorts of things, including the practical side of transitioning to university. 

David says, “We talked about the commute Ethan would face if he kept living at home. He was wondering about whether to apply for the Halls of Residence.”

As Ethan is the first in his family to attend university, his mum, Jessica, was grateful for some guidance from someone who had already been through the process. 

David explained how much he’d benefitted from being in the Halls. 

“It’s an opportunity for intellectual development. You learn a lot from engaging with people who are studying and have a cross-pollination of ideas.” 

As a result of being able to talk through things together with his mentor and mum, Ethan applied for Halls. This was a big move for him and his family, but David’s guidance gave them confidence. And Ethan hasn’t looked back. 

“Living in the Halls means it’s much easier to keep on top of my workload because I’m not commuting for hours each day.” 

Despite moving out of home, Ethan still enjoys seeing his mum regularly. She’s also a great supporter of the mentoring relationship. 

“All three of us have met a few times just to catch up and to talk about grades, uni workload, and the future of industries,” says Ethan.

“Mentoring is such a good part of the First Foundation scholarship. It gives you so many more opportunities for growth than you would otherwise have.”