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Do not sell yourself short, your country needs you.
That was the message from the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern to the best and brightest secondary school pupils in Otago, at the Otago Daily Times Class Act 2018 awards ceremony yesterday.
The cultural, academic and sporting achievements of 55 pupils from 29 Otago schools were celebrated at the special gathering, which included proud parents, teachers and principals in the Otago Museum.
Ms Ardern told the pupils for at least the afternoon they should shun the typical "Kiwi way" and celebrate their own achievements.
"This afternoon you should celebrate, feel proud you are here but also hold on to your optimism and think about what your future may look like. For you."
New Zealand needed the pupils to grow up and tackle some of the most pressing issues facing humanity: climate change, child poverty and inequality, she said.
"We don't need you to be the leaders of tomorrow, we need you to be the leaders of today."
Ms Ardern used her own situation as a senior high school pupil living as a Mormon in Morrinsville who had signed up to study communications at university, for those pupils yet to decide on their direction in life.
"I didn't think I could do anything better, but I heard someone once say `the difference between who we are and who we could be is the greatest waste'."
"But over the years I've become absolutely convinced that the difference between what we are and what we could be is, more often than not, ourselves."
Ms Ardern encouraged the pupils to learn to fight back against their self-doubt so they could live up to their incredible potential.
University of Otago deputy vice-chancellor external engagement Helen Nicholson said the pupils had already proven they were passionate and committed leaders who were at the top of their chosen fields, be it sporting, academic, cultural or a combination of them all.
She also congratulated the parents and teachers who helped them in those achievements.
All Class Act recipients are awarded the University of Otago's Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship.
The scholarship offered $6000 towards living costs while studying at university.
This is the 19th year the Otago Daily Times Class Act programme has been run.