Through Talanoa, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with young Pacific people across the globe, with huge dreams, ambition, intelligence and talent, and Pulemau Savusa is one of them. At the age of 20, she’s led by her faith, passion in education, and her heart for helping Pacific students reach their full potential. We’re proud to share her story and her vision for creating better opportunities for Pacific youth within her community in Seattle, Washington. (Story by Talanoa Intern, Salote Tunidau)
Tell us a bit about yourself, the work that you do, and how you came to follow that career path?
I’m 20 years old, Samoan, pursuing a career in education, and one day hope to be a principal or superintendent of a school district. I want to be around kids and work with them, but I also want to be in a position where I can make changes (on the policy making level). That’s why I’m working towards being a superintendent – I want to be able to advocate for kids and give them a voice in a space where normally, they aren’t heard.
I’m also involved in a lot of community work. I took an interest in community work when I was in high school and it has sort of just taken off from there. My mom is the Executive Director of the White Center Community Development Association and I’ve learned a lot from her. Following her around has also inspired me to pursue a career that will bring about change in my community.
Currently, I am working as the Assistant Site Coordinator for Union Gospel Mission. We have an after-school program for elementary school kids where we help them out with their homework, provide a curriculum so they can continue learning even after the school day is over, and also we get to teach them about God and the Bible. Honestly, I think that is my favorite part of what I do – being able to learn about God through the kids that I work with. I mean, it’s a blessing to hear these kids, who are like six to seven years old, say things like, “Wow, Jesus really loves me,” and even though all these kids come from all sorts of different backgrounds they all know that God loves them and it’s pretty awesome!
I’m just really invested in my community and I can’t wait to see where God will take me in the next couple of years.
What have been the biggest challenges in your line of work?
Taking a year off from university. It was just really unexpected. I always thought I would graduate high school, go to college, get my degree, and start my career. I never planned to take a year off. Once I came back home after finishing my first year of college and I realized I was going to be home for a little longer than expected, I got a little worried. I knew a lot of younger kids looked up to me and I felt like they wouldn’t look up to me anymore if they knew I was taking a year off. I also didn’t know what it would look like to my Pacific community at large or how they would view me.
It’s also difficult to see all my friends in school and here I am working while wishing I was back in school, but I decided to change my perspective on it. I realized that maybe God’s plan for my life was different from the plan I had.
Honestly, in the past year I’ve really been able to grow in my faith and I have been able to do a lot more community work. Not only am I doing community work, I’m seriously focusing on it. I’ve been able to gain a lot more experience and it’s opened my eyes to a lot more things.
What motivates you to push forward with all that you do?
God. My faith. Knowing that everything I’m going through right now is only happening to prepare me for what’s to come.
The other thing that motivates me is the reality that our Pacific Island students are failing and being forgotten in our education system, and not a lot of people are trying to find the solution. I want them to be able to access resources that will help them achieve success in whatever path they choose. I want to help raise up our people, especially in education.
What advice do you have for young Pacific people who might be thinking of doing the same thing?
Know what you’re passionate about. God put a passion for something in all of us and we all serve a purpose. When you know what you are passionate about, it will drive you. You will fail sometimes, but don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
This ties in to passion – you should care about the work that you are doing. Work is done right when people care about the work that they are doing.
Remember who you are, hold on to your culture, and don’t ever feel like you need to choose between your culture and whatever dream it is you are chasing. Leaders know to connect with people, even people who don’t believe in the same things that they do.
Be confident in what you know, but be ok with not knowing some things as well. Listen to people. Listen to your community.
Photo credit: Mel Ponder