Alumni Journey One of Steel Resolve Through Hardship

May 2, 2024

In 2021, Asalemo Lilomaiava was spread thin. Balancing a demanding schedule of shift work to support his family, and caring for a member undergoing medical treatment, all while in his final year completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering with Honours.

“I didn’t know what to expect from that relationship, maybe just school stuff, but I quickly learned that the Trust cares so deeply about its students and wants to help me not just in school but in life. They helped me with organisation and planning, budgeting advice, and ways to balance work, family, and time for myself.”

In 2021, Asalemo Lilomaiava was spread thin. Balancing a demanding schedule of shift work to support his family, and caring for a member undergoing medical treatment, all while in his final year completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering with Honours.  

 It was an untenable situation, wrote Keystone Trust general manager Amanda Stanes in an email to the Board of Directors. The Trust had supported Asalemo as a Study Award recipient for the past three years, and his scholarship payments had recently ceased.  

 “When the Trust decided to extend my scholarship for another year, it was a lifeline,” said the former Sacred Heart College prefect, who returned an A-grade average during his final and most challenging year of study.

 The Trust connected Asalemo with a Pasifika support manager at the University while also providing grocery and petrol vouchers to ensure he was nourished and mobile. The support blew Asalemo away, and today, he remains as humble and grateful as ever.

 “Amanda and the Trust network constantly checked in and provided me with guidance and solutions. Knowing that they were behind me enabled me to refocus on my studies, and I have the real sense that they cared so deeply about my family and I,” he says.

 Three short years later, he thrives as a graduate and site manager with Trust sponsor Dominion Constructors, working on some of Auckland’s most notable new large-scale development projects.

 Since gaining a place as a summer intern with the business at the end of his first year of study, Asalemo says his eyes are wide open to the building and construction industry, and he is enthusiastic, describing his experience working on a diverse range of projects, including landmark central Auckland hotel ‘The International’, Kāinga Ora housing development Te Mātāwai, and accommodation developments at the Auckland Airport.

 The ’Dominion Constructors Cadet of the Year 2023’ says the opportunity to work in his field while studying enabled the practical application of classroom learning, which he used as motivation fuel when life threw curveballs.

 “I owe it to Keystone and the senior leadership team at Dominion for opening these doors and helping me to pursue opportunities. The support I have received has given me the confidence to keep aiming higher for bigger and better things.”

 Pivotal moments have provided Asalemo with a springboard for his success, strengthened by an obvious passion for his work and the industry. At the same time, an unbreakable can-do attitude has propelled him to overcome obstacles to meet his personal milestones.

 He remembers early challenges adjusting to tertiary study and says the backing of the Trust and its sponsor network, which wrapped around him to ensure he received guidance, was a priceless – and at that time unexpected – part of the scholarship package.

 “I didn’t know what to expect from that relationship, maybe just school stuff, but I quickly learned that the Trust cares so deeply about its students and wants to help me not just in school but in life. They helped me with organisation and planning, budgeting advice, and ways to balance work, family, and time for myself.”

 From his high school careers advisor, Mrs Harvey, to his Keystone mentors, James Donald and Simone Sharp, the ‘leg-up’ attitude of others has changed the trajectory of Asalemo’s career. Today, his passion for the industry is palpable—a real asset when the sector grapples with a talent shortage.  

 Quick to acknowledge the support of others, the buck stops with Asalemo, who has steered his future through even the slightest of openings. His message to aspiring students echoes this sentiment: “Take every opportunity that comes your way, just say ‘yes’,” he beams. “I want to say a massive thanks to the Trust and its network past and present, and all those who have contributed to my journey along the way.”

For further media enquiries, please contact:

 Amanda Stanes
Keystone Trust – General Manager
M: 021 689 380
E: amanda@keystonetrust.org.nz 

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