A well-known voice to many in New Zealand’s Pasifika community, Unitec Bachelor of Communications graduate Cooper reads the news for Niu FM and Radio 531 PI and fronts Pacific Praise which airs on Radio 531PI on Sunday mornings.

Along with his wife Anna and friends, he recently started his own business, Ark Studios Ltd., where Cooper’s putting his media experience and communications knowledge to good use.

He started his working life as a labourer, but felt unfulfilled and found education was key to leading him to a position where he could begin his dream to be ‘a positive role model for our Māori and Pacific people’.

“The more knowledge I can grasp, the better equipped I am to do what I want to do in life.”

Cooper knew the dedication and sacrifice he would need to get where he wanted to go.

“I grew up in a poor family. Mum had to work hard, she was a caretaker while she studied for her teaching degree. She’d come home crying and frustrated.

“I used that as inspiration for my own life. I didn’t want to go back to cutting trees, which is what I used to do before studying. It was very challenging physically, but wasn’t very demanding mentally.”

He liked Unitec because of ‘the support they give to Māori and the Whai Ake Māori mentoring programme.’

“Whai Ake was an eye opener. Going to Te Tii Marae in Waitangi and learning about our treaty, I fully enjoyed the Māori knowledge. It kind of cemented who I am as a Māori. I met other Māori students through Whai Ake and some of them are still my friends today.”

Cooper credits his faith, for being where he is today and getting him and his wife through some tough times.

“There were times when my wife and I were struggling and wondering where money would come from to pay for our rent.

“There was one point in time when we had just three dollars between us and that was a real big learning curve, but our faith held us together.

“It’s helped us to empathise with people. A lot of our stories are about Pacific people struggling to put food on the table, working nine to five and earning just enough to pay the bills, but not enough for food, and you just feel for them because you know what they’re going through.

“I’ve lived it and I’ve seen the heartache and the worry it can cause.”

What Cooper enjoys most about his role is telling the positive stories of our Māori and Pasifika communities.

Through these stories he hopes to inspire positive change and is optimistic that stories about community initiatives will have a ripple effect where these ideas will spread to other communities.

Find out more about the Whai Ake Māori Mentoring Programme.