As an inaugural participant in the Pacific Security Scholars Program, I was privileged to be part of the beginning of something that I hope becomes a movement.

I write from New York City, where I am now working as an Advisor for the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Every day, this internship exposes me to the serious human challenges that we must address across different geographies.

Being born in Aotearoa New Zealand with family from Tonga, I know the stakes are high for the Pacific. I see from this side of the world that we need more Pacific leaders who are engaged, connected and informed to push for a future of less fragility, more autonomy and with greater opportunities.

During my year as a Pacific Security Scholar, I was issued a figurative pass to access regional experts on the Pacific. This helped me to build a picture of the broad challenges that our region faces. Along the way, I came to understand how willing many are to share their thoughts and discuss the issues with young leaders. And, I found these engagements to be both heartening and enlightening.

Given the challenges of climate change as a risk-multiplier across our region, I believe that the timing of the Pacific Security Scholars Program is critical. Through the program, the Pacific Islands Society (PacSoc) offers a unique balance of mentorship, structure, networks, and generous insight to young leaders.

What I felt and still feel differentiates the organisation (and thus this program) is that this is a young, passionate and internationally spread organisation with a big finger on the pulse of our region.

Youth with a loyalty to the Pacific simply need to come forward and invest in developing innovative solutions to the policy problems facing our region. I therefore highly recommend that other young leaders in the Pacific apply to the Pacific Security Scholars program.