Kendell Heremaia realising her dream through Hard Work and Discipline

Kendell Heremaia (right) and the Logo of Fordham University
​Kendell Heremaia of Whangaruru is living her dream.

On 22nd January Kendell’s whanau gathered at the Auckland International Airport to farewell her on a very exciting journey ahead of her.  The destination – Fordham University, United States of America.  The kaupapa is a four-year scholarship which she has been awarded at Fordham University in New York.

This new journey for Kendell is the beginning of a long held dream of playing basketball in the United States and ultimately to play professionally in WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) competition.  This is the first step in realising that dream.

Fordham University is a private institution that was founded in 1841. It has a total undergraduate enrolment of 8,855 students.  At Fordham University it is said that  “New York is your campus “. With campuses throughout New York City, students live and learn in the thick of an urban experience.  This couldn’t be a greater contrast to Kendell’s early years of living in Whangaruru and her foundation in Te O Maori having spent her early years learning at Te Kohanga Reo O Mokau.

Kendell is excited and nervous about the future and says, “this is massive for me!  I was shocked to receive the email from Fordham University, let alone those I also received from other Universities wanting me to go to their kura.  At first I was quite worried about going to America but towards the end of the year I definitely wanted to go. “

Waiting at the airport to depart to New York with Dad – Ricky Heremaia (left) and Grandfather Anthony Barber (right) – proudly wearing their Fordham colours
​It was only two years ago that we last did a profile on Kendell, who at the time, at just 15, had already had a great list of achievements at both regional and international level.  Through her participation at an international level playing for New Zealand, she has already seen more parts of the world than most teenagers her age, with her sport taking her to Kazakhstan, Hungary and Australia, to name a few.

The talent of Kendell is such that she had four Universities offer her full scholarships, with many others also showing interest.  Of the four, North Colorado showed strong interest and had been watching her progress over the past few years.  They were disappointed to not secure a scholarship with her, but Kendell and her whanau feel that they have made the right choice in choosing Fordham.
The scholarship offered from Fordham covers everything for Kendell, from her tertiary fees, food, accommodation, a small weekly allowance as well as all her basketball gear, shoes and other sports requirements.
Kendell (second from left) is already sitting courtside with team mates and staff, itching to get on the court
Her Grandfather, Anthony Barber says, “I am very proud of Kendell, her achievements and what the future has in store for her. It is good for our young people from home to see what she has achieved and to realise that if you want anything in life you have got to work for it. She is disciplined and she trains hard.  This is pretty big for our whanau.  It all reflects back on the whanau, the hapū and the iwi.” 

Grandmother, Meri Barber is happy that her Granddaughter has chosen Fordham University and says, “I have my two twin daughters, Connie and Maryella in the USA.  Kendell initially did want to move closer to her Aunties by going to North Colorado, but the whanau felt that Fordham was a better option for her.  However, it is only a two hour flight from where her aunties are on the West Coast and they will go see Kendell throughout the year. My daughters have been in the USA for over 20 years, so they will look after her over there too, so we are happy.”

Kendell says she is particularly interested in studying business and possibly visual arts and is excited at what Fordham has to offer in these areas. 

Kendell says, “I would like to thank my whanau, hapū and iwi who have supported and helped me get to where I am today.  I would love to come home one day and give back to my community in some way to help others.”

On behalf of your Ngātiwai iwi, we wish Kendell a safe journey and all the success and experiences that will come her way with her new kura – Fordham University.  Well done Kendell!!

Ko Huruiki, Matawhaura, Pūhanga-tohorā ngā maunga
Ko Mokau, Puna-ki-tere ngā awa Ko Rotoiti te moana
Ko Te Uri O Hikihiki, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngai-tu- te-auru ngā hapū
Ko Ngātiwai, Te Arawa, Ngapuhi ngā iwi
Ko Mokau, Tāheke, Pukerata ngā Marae
Ko Te Whenuaroa, Te Arawa, Ngātokimatawhaorua ngā waka
Ko Waipu, Te Waata Taranui, ngā rangatira

Touchdown!! Kendell (centre front) meeting and greeting with other students and staff at Fordham University
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