Class Act 2023: King’s High School

Massimo Pezzuto


Giving back to others is in Massimo Pezzuto’s nature.

He says his life’s purpose is to make a difference in the world, great or small.

‘‘I want to make a difference . . . and preserve our natural environment.

‘‘After all, the world is a beautiful place.’’

The 18-year-old King’s High School pupil plans to study zoology and geography with a minor in French at the University of Otago.

His goal is to become a wildlife manager, rehabilitator, conservationist and educator — travelling to developing countries in Africa and South America to work alongside and with local communities.

He would love to work in Brazil, which would give him the ‘‘unforgettable’’ opportunity to visit the Amazon rainforest.

Massimo says he has always been fascinated by the natural world, being out in nature from a young age.

He would watch his dad planting at home and at Dunedin’s botanical gardens.

Growing up in a multicultural household with an Italian, New Zealand European and Māori background, Massimo has been immersed in different cultures.

He says this has given him a natural empathy for others.

‘‘The world is home to over 3800 different cultures. That makes the world such a beautiful and fascinating place.

‘‘To understand how someone else might perceive something very different, thorough their perspective, I think is really important.’’


Achievements: Head boy (2023); Dunedin RSA Anzac dawn service reader (2023); cultural festival leader (2022); enviro week coordinator (2022); cultural blue, art (2022); Dunedin School of Art Otago Secondary Schools Art Award, certificate of excellence (2022); NCEA scholarship biology, geography and history (2022); NCEA excellence endorsements in year 13 biology and history, year 12  English, French, geography, and visual art painting (2022); Level 1, 2 excellence endorsement (2021, 2022); St Cecilia School of Music grade 3 cello exam, high distinction 100% (2022); The Bremner Scholarship, top year 12 academic student (2022); Excellence in International Languages Award NZ, French (2021-2022); The Royal Society of New Zealand Silver Crest (2021); NCEA excellence 
endorsements in year 12 biology and history, year 11 English, French, and visual art (2021);  Cambridge IGCSE examinations, receiving A* English, A global perspectives and science (2020); The Lang Medal, top year 10 academic student (2020).

Role model: David Attenborough, his parents and older brother. 

Hopes for the future: To study zoology, geography and French at the University of Otago, and travel to developing countries in Africa and South America. 


Dylan Pledger


Dylan Pledger comes up with his best ideas on the rugby field.

After brainstorming with a mate, they devised a solution to a common problem they faced on the field.

The proposed venture, dubbed ‘‘Dry My Balls’’, is a rugby ball-drying towel.

It is equipped with built-in hand insertions to catch rugby balls more easily and dry them faster.

Dylan says the towel would solve a stressful predicament one might find themselves in on the sidelines.

‘‘We both love to play rugby, then we thought of the problem and made a solution.’’

For Dylan, this stroke of inspiration combines the best of both worlds: his love of rugby and his entrepreneurial spirit.

In an ideal world, the 18-year-old King’s High School pupil wants to be a professional sportsman.

His sights are set high, and he hopes to play for the Highlanders before ultimately becoming an All Black.

Dylan is on the right track, having represented the country in the secondary schools rugby team and the under-18 boys’ touch team.

Rugby has always been his greatest passion, and he has played it since he was 3 years old.

He finds it fun to vent his frustrations on the field, especially with his friends by his side.

‘‘That’s the best thing about rugby, all the mates you’ve made.’’

But if he wants to take his rugby seriously, Dylan knows he also needs a back-up plan.

If he does not end up making his living on the field, Dylan hopes to bring his bright ideas off the field to a career in business.

He plans to study finance at the University of Otago.

Dylan says both business and rugby need dedication and hard work.

With this back-up plan up his sleeve, Dylan is willing to take the plunge into professional rugby.

‘‘If I want to go far in rugby, I need to be dedicated.

‘‘It’s not going to come easy.’’


Achievements: Level 2 excellence endorsement (2022); subject endorsements, maths and physical education (2022); deputy head boy (2023); 1st XV rugby (2021-23); captain, 1st XV rugby (2023); 1st basketball (2021, 2022); 1st touch (2019-23); captain, 1st touch (2023); 2nd, NZ secondary school touch finals (2020, 2022); NZ secondary schools touch finals, most valued player (2020); NZ secondary schools rugby team (2022); NZ under-18 boys’ touch team (2023).

Role models: Touch coach Dan Koni, rugby coach Niall Gregg, his parents.

Hopes for the future: To study finance at the University of Otago, play for the Highlanders and All Blacks.