Grant winner Jesse Hawkes Pierce supports athletes with disabilities

Jesse Hawkes-Pierce with John West, EIT’s Head of Business and Computing, and CEO of Ryman Healthcare NZ Cheyne Chalmers.

Not content with her laurels, Jesse Hawkes-Pierce has her finger in many pies and is already looking to the future after receiving a Sir James Watty scholarship three weeks ago.

The 26-year-old EIT Business student won a $15,000 scholarship, provided by Ryman Healthcare, in honor of the visionary Hawke’s Bay entrepreneur.

The award was presented by Ryman Healthcare NZ CEO Cheyne Chalmers at a ceremony attended by EIT Schools of Business and Computing President John West, Jesse’s family and friends, and residents of the James Watty Retirement Village.

Jesse shared residents and guests on her journey after dropping out of school to pursue her dreams – graduating from NZ Florist Academy, working at an organic livestock station in the Australian Outback, running her own online business selling reusable and plastic-free products. Jessie is also associated with Hawke’s Bay Rotary and is a charter member of Rotoract.

“Jesse is a deserving winner and we hope this scholarship will inspire her and other business students to move forward as future female entrepreneurs who will follow their own vision in the footsteps of Sir James Watty,” says Chain.

Last year, Jesse, who was born with one hand, started Hawke’s Bay Halberg, a community group for children with differences in limbs, which she directs and manages. The 12-man team, for youths ages 8 to 21, competed at last year’s annual Halberg Games in Palmerston North, winning best area overall.

“We were so excited that I accidentally dropped the goblet, and now it’s smashed on the shelf,” Jessie says.

This win gave Jesse the impetus to create the Disability Sports and Rec Hawke’s Bay Charitable Foundation (DSRHB), as Hawke’s Bay is one of the only areas in New Zealand without a Para Federation.

“The charity will help enable team growth and support the team that goes to games. I want to help. If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. I am proactive and raise my hand to try new things. I am very busy all the time and have to be organized.”

Next week, Jesse will represent DSRHB at Sports NZ Paralympic Games in Auckland.

“This is to connect with others in the sector and grow our understanding of how to better work collaboratively to implement inclusive practices. We also have a similar development opportunity happening in November with the New Zealand Paralympics.”

This year Jesse has worked two part-time jobs – interior/theater design during the week and party design on the weekends.

“I really enjoy the creative work, it’s really fun. I love my friends and family, they help me every day and I cherish their continued support. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.”

Jesse’s adventurous spirit led her last summer to spend three weeks at Outward Bound, learning to sail, hike, sail, run a half marathon “and a lot of other outdoor activities as part of team building.”

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

She hopes to one day be employed by the newly formed charity and support physically disabled children to participate in sports, and to normalize the acceptance of diverse abilities in society.

“I will use the scholarship money to continue my studies and plan some international travel. It gives me a lot of options.”

This is a role funded by public interest journalism through NZ On Air

Leave a Comment