News Release

BYU-Hawaii Graduate from Tuvalu Meets Queen of England

Not many young people are privileged to meet personally with Her Majesty the Queen of England. But Easter Tekafa Niko from the tiny island nation of Tuvalu, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was given that opportunity in June 2016.

Tuvalu is an independent island nation within the British Commonwealth consisting of nine small islands. Its population is approximately 10,000 people.

Along with seven other young Pacific islanders, Niko travelled to Buckingham Palace in London, England to receive an award from the Queen for their leadership roles in society.

The Pacific islanders were part of a group of 60 young people from throughout the British Commonwealth to receive the Queen's Young Leader Award for 2016. Their individual efforts were recognized as exemplary, having worked to support others by inspiring positive change in a variety of ways—including such areas as climate change, gender equality, mental health, educational opportunity, and other issues.

Niko graduated from Brigham Young University Hawaii in Laie, Hawaii. According to a story published by the school’s campus news magazine, Ke Alaka’i, three years ago he met Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife Kate when the royal couple were visiting Tuvalu. At the time, they said jokingly to Niko, “If you ever come to England, give us a call.”

After he was chosen to receive the 2016 Queen’s Young Leader Award in December 2015, which he accepted in June from Queen Elizabeth II, Niko said, “I thought it was funny that now I might actually see them again.”

The Deseret News in Utah, U.S.A reported that after meeting the Queen, Niko said, "It was a fabulous experience. The highlight was definitely meeting the Queen. I wasn't expecting her to be so personable, but she took time to ask about me, my project and the people of Tuvalu. She was really sweet."

The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme web site states that its purpose “recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. Winners of this prestigious Award will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from Her Majesty The Queen. With this support, Award winners will be expected to continue and develop the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.”

Niko served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Oakland/San Francisco California Mission in the U.S.A.

After his mission, he returned to BYU–Hawaii to continue his education. While he was studying, he was part of a group of students who raised more than $300,000 from private donors to improve the quality of education in Tuvalu.

At BYU–Hawaii, Niko was one of many international students at the school who are using what they have learned to bless their families, communities, and home countries. They want to continue making a difference in the world.

Niko feels his education at BYU–Hawaii opened doors of opportunity for him. About his university experience, he said, “Before I even got to BYU–Hawaii, I always wanted to help young kids where I come from in Tuvalu to get opportunities to come to school, just like me. Some friends of mine and I got together and started working on some things that we could do with education back home. We did that for a couple of years before I left on my mission. Did some great work.”

It was this great work that led to the Queen’s award which is given to young people around the Commonwealth that show leadership and positive influence in their communities.

Niko married his sweetheart, Cindy, in Hawaii. They have moved to Utah in the U.S.A. to pursue a master's degree at the University of Utah. Through this and other experiences, Niko and his wife plan to continue helping the people of Tuvalu and to improve the world in which they live.

Read more about Niko and his experience:

BYU-Hawaii Campus New Magazine, Ke Alaka'i

Deseret News Article

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