Role models serve multiple functions as they influence Māori students’ goals and school aspirations. While Māori students are faced with various educational barriers, scholars contend that having a positive role model can influence their educational persistence and overall engagement at school. Therefore, it is important to consider who Māori students choose as role models and how they influence their goals and aspirations. This study describes the ways role models influence the educational aspirations of self-identified Ngāpuhi secondary students attending schools in Te Tai Tokerau, Northland. Following a qualitative research approach, this investigation examined the survey responses of 89 Ngāpuhi secondary students aged between 13 and 18 years. The Ngāpuhi students chose role models who exemplified tenacity, ambition and self-determination—the same attributes of their many tūpuna who came before them. The findings of this study suggest that influential whānau role models, and cultural values, play a pivotal role in informing the educational decisions made by Ngāpuhi secondary students.