Being in a wheelchair has not stopped Tusiga Peseta Taofiga from proving he is the best.
Yesterday, the 21-year-old was named the Top Journalism student at the National University of Samoa’s graduation.
The sweet moment yesterday was the culmination of a journey that began in 2013 when the N.U.S’s first Media and Journalism Promotional Tour, led by Misa Vicky Lepou, found him at Amoa College.
It was his last year as a college student and he told Misa he wanted to be a Radio Announcer. He did. As icing on the cake, Mr. Taofiga delivered the Graduands' Address before hundreds of guests, families and friends yesterday.
“It has been a long journey but all glory and honour be unto God for the wisdom and the knowledge, and especially his protection and guidance upon me,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“I also like to say a big thank you to my family for all their support, especially my grandmother Mua for praying for me every day while in university.”
Study was tough for the student.
“There were a lot of competitions and I didn’t think I was going to be in this place,” he said. “There were a lot of students who were smarter than me but I guess it was a miracle and God has done a miracle in my life.”
Being in a wheelchair made life harder for the top student.
“It was hard for me to be involved with the normal kids and the lack of resources to satisfy the needs of the people with disability,” he said.
“It’s the fact that I had to rely on other people for help and also in terms of transportation, it was hard for me to fit in."
“I felt like the other students were treating me different because they see that I’m on the wheelchair, it was really hard for me to try and adapt."
“I felt like I didn’t belong here, those were the main challenges that I face but I thank God I made it this far.”
Mr. Taofiga is now pursuing his goal to become a journalist, and aims to work in the media, whether it is in a newspaper, television or radio.
“I want to have the experience of working in the media for about five to six years and then come back to university to broaden my knowledge.”
He advised people with disabilities to never think lightly of themselves.
“Don’t think that you don’t belong in the community,” he said. “Don’t think that you are no use to the community and to the country. Always remember that God created us and that He created us in His own image."
“You can do it despite the kind of person you are, whatever dreams you have, go for it because you can do it. We are all the same and we all have the same rights, take the risk and go for gold because the sky is the limit.”
The top student is the only child of Peseta and Mua Taofiga, of Pu’apu’a, Savai’i.