Future architect tops St Mary's College

Lupeoaunuu Maria Vaai has been named the dux of St Mary's College in a prize-giving ceremony on Thursday.

The 17-year-old of Vaoala, who aspires to be an architect, came top after she attained first place in English, Biology, Chemistry and Computer Studies and was also named the top science student.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, she said she is humbled to continue the legacy of her family as a top student at the college following in her mother and aunt's footsteps.

"I am humbled and grateful and all glory goes back to God because, without Him, none of this would be possible," she said. "For my schoolwork, I’ve been aiming to get a career in architecture, but for the prize-giving and school, I wanted to continue on my family’s legacy because my mum was also a dux and her younger sister as well so I’m happy and humbled that I also got it."

She said she finds design and technology amusing and pointed out that architecture is something she would enjoy as a career in the future. 

And while being named a top student isn't new to Ms Vaai, as she has topped her class every year since Year 9 at St Mary's, she was determined to come out on top in this academic year.

"That was another driving force for me. I told myself that none of the Year 9,10 and 12 achievements would matter if I didn’t get the last year so I’m glad I got it," she added. 

Ms Vaai was initially supposed to attend Samoa College after St Mary's Primary school but she said she chose St Mary's due to her experience.

"I was supposed to go to Samoa College and I had to pick between those two and I chose St Mary’s and I am grateful that I did because of the experience from St Mary’s.

“I don’t feel like I would have chosen anything else if I had the chance again.”

For the 17-year-old, her parents have been greatest supporters of her academic life, which she acknowledged in her speech as the college dux and in her interview with the Samoa Observer. "My parents, my dad and my mum have done a lot for me. I’m a person who wants a lot of things and they’ve never failed to give me what I need and they have always provided me so much more.

"I also thank all my families, my grandpa and all the St Mary’s teachers; it’s been a great experience and I am sad that I am leaving but I’m grateful for the experience and what they have done for me." 

Balancing her studies with her chores at home, she said the COVID-19 restrictions were amongst her challenges that she had to overcome with the help of her family and friends.

"Trying to focus on studies, as there were a lot of things going on in the world with the pandemic, and then I had to focus on doing chores at home because I can’t be studying all the time and I procrastinate a good amount of procrastination.

“But with the motivation of my friends and family, I was able to overcome it and focus properly on my studies.”

Ms Vaai will attend university next year and hopes to do well and god-willing attain a scholarship to achieve her dream career, so she could provide for her family and give back to her parents for the sacrifices they made.

She is the second eldest of three children and is the only daughter of Nonu Saleimoa Vaai and Tuuu Simeamativa Vaai. 

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