Meet Tavita Upulasi - the graduate.
He may not be Dustin Hoffman in the 1980’s Hollywood movie; The Graduate.
But Tavita is the genuine graduate with flying colours. And he may have best the Hollywood mega-star and multi-billionaire actor Hoffman as a real life graduate, as a reformed alumni from the University of Hard Knots and Samoa’s very own Oloimanu Juvenile Center; located 4 kilometres inland from the Mulifanua main road.
In the spur of the moment Tavita found himself at Oloimanu for losing his temper serving time for a grievous bodily harm assault conviction in 2014.
But that was then and this is now.
Today, Tavita is sharing his new wealth of knowledge as an IT certified technician after graduating from the Oloimanu School of Hard Knots.
And his conviction to share his blessings and his trials and tribulations with the students of Oloimanu’s Center did not go unnoticed.
“After graduating from Oloimanu in 2014, he worked as a casual staff with the church’s main office,” says Rev Sakaio Maiava, one of the three CCCS’s Mission Officers providing courses in English, Mathematics, and Computer literacy, Samoan Language, Music and Bible Studies for the 60 plus Oloimanu students.
“He never gave up after Oloimanu,” added Rev Tanielu Tupuse. “The Church leaders saw the potential and funded his education.
“Tavita went back to the classroom to pursue his dream as a computer technician with the CISCO program. He is now a Grade 2 and working full time as the Church IT officer.
“And there he is, sharing his knowledge with the Oloimanu intakes,” admired Rev. Tanielu Tupuse.
”Tavita is a shining example and he stands out as one of the CCCS’s missionary outreach initiative’s success stories,” added Rev. Poaso Teiaivao.
“This is the fourth year of our outreach program. And having Tavita onboard without a doubt is the best endorsement for our outreach.
“For Tavita to return as a graduate of Oloimanu is a bonus to the new intakes because he is also sharing his experience,” complimented Cabinet’s Associate Minister for Prisons So’oalo Mene.
“His testimonies are a superb example to motivate the intakes that there is life after Oloimanu.
“Tavita’s tribulations speaks volumes for government and what we as leaders aspire to accomplish.
“That is what incarceration should be about.
“For incomers to accept their shortcomings regardless of the circumstances and move on to be better residents to their respective communities,” elaborated So’oalo.
“Here at Oloimanu, we are family,” echoed the Centre’s Warden Taefu Niko Vili Ifopo.
“And that is our secret ingredient; our family bond.
“Many of our students reacted without thinking before suddenly finding themselves enrolled here in Oloimanu,” continued Taefu
“And to readjust to the hostel life here at Oloimanu, is crucial.
“That’s why our prison break record is clean.”
Through the missionary work (not only by CCCS but other messengers of Christianity that includes Pastor Livigisitone, the Samatau 7th Day Adventist Church, Rev, Sale Uelese to name are few) Taefu says the family atmosphere couple with the faa-Samoa are a contributing factor to the clean prison break.
“I am speechless when it comes to the support from our religious leaders and the public not to mention our policy makers.
“And with all sincerity, my public plea is help your Oloimanu Center by donating to building a new Church for your Oloimanu students.”