Talofa lava. My name is Cassius Kuresa, a graduate from the Rotary Youth Leadership Award programme (RYLA) in 1996. Participating in RYLA was a life-changing event for me, it really inspired me to do more that I currently was at the time. Back then I was working in the paint shop department at Mitsubishi Motors, sanding, blocking and buffing cars on the assembly line. RYLA put me in a very foreign environment being amongst 60 other young people and being the only Samoan or Pacific person in the whole group! We got to do a lot of challenging and thought provoking things that made me think more about what I could achieve as an individual, especially with things that I am most passionate about. We heard from keynote speakers who shared their journeys and life experiences that helped shape them to become successful people in their own rights.
For myself, once I completed the week long programme I knew what I had to do. I had always had a passion for helping and working alongside youth in my city. Once I got back from RYLA I resigned from work so I could pursue studies to follow my passion and utilise skills that I thought I had, and push myself mentally. I got accepted to do a Health Promotion course over 2 years that pretty much set me up on the career journey and opened more doors and opportunities. After the course I gained employment with Regional Public Health as a health educator back in 1999, which allowed me to work with young people and help them learn more about how to be healthy. Over the following ten years I gained promotions to health promoter, strategic advisor and project leader within the same organisation. Throughout my roles I have been able to see the benefits of my roles and how they helped improve health outcomes for the communities I have worked with over the years.
I’m currently working in the education sector as I wanted to challenge myself and gain experience in another sector. I tend to like new roles after a few years as I get exposed to different things and situations. I feel very lucky to have the opportunities I have had over my professional career considering where I started. I can honestly say with hand on heart that RYLA 1996 was the turning point for me and I know that anyone who participates in the programme will benefit a whole lot as an individual, both personally and career-wise.