Scholar Jessie Hawkes-Pearce supports para-athletes

Jessie Hawkes-Pearce with John West, Head of the EIT’s Business and Computing School, and Cheyne Chalmers, CEO of Ryman Healthcare NZ.

Jessie Hawkes-Pearce is not resting on her laurels, has her fingers in many pies and is already looking to the future after winning the Sir James Wattie scholarship three weeks ago.

The 26-year-old EIT business student won the $15,000 grant offered by Ryman Healthcare in honor of the visionary Hawke’s Bay entrepreneur.

The award was presented by Cheyne Chalmers, CEO of Ryman Healthcare NZ, at an event attended by John West, Director of the EIT’s Schools of Business and Computing, Jessie’s family and friends and residents of the James Wattie Retirement Village.

Jessie told residents and guests about her journey after leaving school to follow her dreams – graduating from NZ Florist Academy, working on an organic cattle farm in the Australian outback and running her own online business, that sells reusable and plastic-free products. Jessie is also associated with Hawke’s Bay Rotary and is a founding member of Rotoract.

“Jessie is a deserving winner and we hope this scholarship will inspire her and other business students to follow in Sir James Wattie’s footsteps as future entrepreneurs of their own vision,” says Cheyne.

Last year, Jessie, who was born with one hand, started the Hawke’s Bay Halberg Team, a community group for children with different limbs, which she coaches and leads. The 12-man team for youth ages 8-21 competed in the annual Halberg Games in Palmerston North last year and won best region overall.

“We were so excited I accidentally dropped the glass trophy and now it’s sitting on my shelf broken,” says Jessie.

This win gave Jessie the impetus to start the Disability Sports and Rec Hawke’s Bay (DSRHB) charity as Hawke’s Bay is one of the few regions in New Zealand without an established para federation.

“The charity will help enable the team to grow and support the team that goes to the games. I would like to help. If it’s not me, it will be someone else. I’m proactive and raise my hand to try new things. I’m very busy all the time and I have to organize myself.”

Next week Jessie will represent DSRHB at the Sports NZ Disability hui in Auckland.

“This serves to connect us with others in the industry and expand our understanding of how best to work together to implement inclusive practices. We also have a similar development opportunity in November with the Paralympics New Zealand.”

This year Jessie has held two part-time jobs – interior styling/staging during the week and party styling on the weekends.

“I really enjoy being creative, it’s really fun. I love my friends and family, they help me every day and I appreciate their continuous support. And I feel really fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing people.”

Last summer, Jessie’s adventurous spirit drove her to spend three weeks at Outward Bound learning how to navigate, hike, sail, run a half marathon “and many other outdoor activities in a team-building environment.”

“I would highly recommend others to choose this experience as well. I enjoy being social and having a good work-life balance. I am passionate about health and fitness and connecting these areas of my life together.”

She hopes to one day be employed by the newly formed charity and support physically challenged children to participate in sports and normalize acceptance of different skills in the community.

“I will use the scholarship money to further my education and plan some international travel. It gives me many opportunities.”

This is a Public Interest Journalism funded reel through NZ On Air

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