(SAMOA) — Soteria Sekuini received a big shiny trophy for earning the Top Student in Medicine during the 2018 National University of Samoa graduation.
One of nine graduates who received special 'Top Student' awards, Sekuini, on behalf of the graduating class, spoke before a distinguished gathering.
Hundreds were in attendance — Espicopal Vicar Apia Vicariate (Suiepikopō Vikaliatu Apia) Father Falaniko Matulino, NUS educators, parents, family members, friends and well-wishers of all ages.
Her scholastic achievements earned her a place on the same stage as Tapusatele Le Mamea Tuiletufuga Lemalu Su’a Leatuavao Ropati Mualia. Before Sekuini spoke, he delivered a speech and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Political Science and Education for his pioneering role in establishing NUS.
Like Tapusatele, a former Member of Parliament who recounted the difficulties faced in laying the groundwork for NUS more than three decades earlier, Sekuini spoke of "faith" and the work of God in planning, while in pursuit of a dream.
"To the graduands of 2018, we made it! We made it to this day...the day we all looked forward to," said Sekuini.
"And how did we get to today? How did we get this degree? How did we get to wear this cap and gown? Well, we certainly did not do it alone. We give thanks to The Man above for He has guided us through every step we took."
She also drew from the Word of God, as did Tapusatele, Member of the Council of Deputies. While he referred to Matthew and the "mustard seed," she quoted Jeremiah 29:11.
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," Sekuini said.
She thanked the government "for providing scholarships which enabled us to continue our education" and mentors and lecturers for "going beyond the call of duty," demanding excellence of their students.
"You are our first teachers and will forever be our teachers," Sekuini said, addressing parents. "No words can express how each one of us graduands today, is thankful for your support throughout. We love you."
Loved ones who have passed were also remembered during her speech.
"We know you're looking down on us, on this day, and we hope we've made you proud. Thank you," she said. "This is for you."
Graduates were asked by Sekuini to stand and give their many supporters a round of applause.
In closing, she advised the class: "You cannot let the fear of failure, or a fear of comparison, or a fear of judgment stop you from doing the things that will make you great."
Always remember Philippians 4:13, Sekuini said.
She then gave mention to one special person who was missing from the crowd.
"Before I leave the stage, I just want to wish my grandfather who cannot make it today — a Happy 79th Birthday," said the top med student. "Let the grace of God be upon us always. Faafetai and thank you."
NUS was established by an Act of Parliament in 1984. Its first class enrolled 45 students.
Four hundred and twenty-eight graduated with degrees in various disciplines at its gymnasium at Le Papaigalagala, Toomatagi, Vaivase on Friday, April 6, 2018.
Here are the 2018 Special Awards recipients:
Honorary Doctorate in Political Science and Education: Tapusatele Le Mamea Tuiletufuga Lemalu Su’a Leatuavao Ropati Mualia
Top Commercial Law Student: Kalimajtania Ah Chong
Top Economic Student: Taufaalili Malolo
Top Management Student: Pesefeamanaia Bell
Top Overall Accounting Student: Taufaalili Malolo
Top Student in Bachelor Education – Primary: Sialasa Leilua Elisara
Top Student in Bachelor Education – Secondary: Carolynn Titata Krieg
Top Student in Medicine: Soteria Sekuini
Top Nursing Student: Daniel Faletoese
Top Student in Bachelor of Science (Secondary Teaching) Majoring in Mathematics or Science: Kirisimasi Foua