High fliers spread their wings

The young people awarded Otago Daily Times Class Act awards in 2003 are making the most of their...
The young people awarded Otago Daily Times Class Act awards in 2003 are making the most of their opportunities. Photos supplied. Photo of Scott Campbell by Emily Hlavac Green.
As the Otago Daily Times prepares to celebrate another group of high-achieving high school pupils with Class Act awards this week, Kim Dungey looks back at the class of 2003. It seems they want it all - from successful careers to overseas travel. But they are also making a contribution in myriad ways.

Otago's most talented young people are having a ball, mostly in places other than Dunedin. They might return eventually but only if there are suitable jobs.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

In 2003, 57 high school pupils received Otago Daily Times Class Act awards. Seven years on, we asked them to comment on the Dunedin City Council campaign to lure former Otago pupils and students home.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The council is building online databases, which alumni groups will use to organise reunions and other events in the hope of encouraging ex-pupils living abroad to become involved in the region again.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Of the 57 young people recognised for excellence, fewer than half are still in the Otago-Southland region.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Twelve are overseas and more than 20 others plan to join them in the next few years.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

University research opportunities and the presence of family would be inducements for some to return but the small job market would be a significant barrier.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Ed Heydon, who studied medicine in England and is now a house officer there, says while Dunedin has much to offer certain groups, such as students and families, there is a lack of incentive for young professionals to stay.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Tiam Maghsodi, who manages a large cosmetics counter in London, says Dunedin is a fantastic place in which to grow up but there needs to be a "huge change" in the infrastructure, including public transport.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Others such as Jamie Kearney say they will probably return to New Zealand in several years' time but there is no incentive to do so at the moment because they want to experience what is on offer overseas. Jamie has worked on yachts in the south of France and is now with a banking group in England.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

When asked what could be done to encourage former students to return, some suggested pay increases and cheaper flights from Dunedin to other main centres. One advocated "getting rid of the terrible mayor and having a democratic city council", while another said the climate would have to improve.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Rosslyn Knox, who works for a natural health product manufacturer in Te Puke, adds people like her would return sooner if there was more confidence that Dunedin businesses would remain and develop, but a smaller, more isolated city may be hardest-hit by restructuring.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Everyone wants to be involved with a success story, she adds, "so stories of successful Dunedin businesses would attract more people back to the area".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Seven years after it was touted as the cream of the crop, the class of 2003 is a success story in its own right. Among those achieving in a wide range of areas are commercial pilot Nick Hoffman, composer Andrew Baldwin, Tim Muller, who is doing volunteer work in India, and Tania Ashby, who is a professional dancer in Mexico.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Closer to home, Jenna Mitchell owns a Subway restaurant and Mario Leoni, one of five teachers in the cohort, juggles classroom duties with nights as a DJ.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

However, the biggest single vocational group is doctors, six of whom now work in hospitals in New Zealand and England.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Many have double degrees and 10 are still studying. They include Brendan Connor, who is midway through a master's degree in European politics at Oxford University, and Logan Penniket, who studied at the Warsaw School of Economics and is about to start his master's in politics, economics and philosophy at the University of Hamburg.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Three are married, 21 others told us they are living with partners, but only three have children.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Six have bought houses but few have paid off their student loans.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

So are the former Class Act recipients, now in their mid-20s, doing what they imagined? "Yes," says Nick Hoffman, a first officer with Air NZ Link subsidiary Eagle Airways.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"I've always wanted to be a pilot since I was very young so I'm living my life's dream."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

But, asked the same question, Tim Muller responds that he doesn't think his imagination was "ever this interesting".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Architectural graduate Nathan Corbett jokes he wanted to be a Tall Black but "stopped growing" at 1.75m so went to university.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Kelly Hoskin, who is teaching English in China, planned to be away only 12 months but two years later, has "the travel bug and might not be back for a while".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Scott Vollweiler hopes to work in international development but sees his present job guiding tourists on Fox Glacier as a nice break before he enters "real life".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Many say the highlights for them since school have been their time at university, their graduations, finding jobs they enjoy, making new friends and seeing the world. For commerce student Rachel Grout it was giving her "life to Christ" after her dream of being a pilot fell through and she turned to alcohol to cope.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

When asked about the biggest challenge of the past seven years, lawyer Rachel Byrne said it was getting through her final exams at the same time her partner left for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

For doctor Ingrid Crawford, the low point was the death of her father in a rock-climbing accident in Mid-Canterbury in 2004.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Nathan Corbett has enjoyed living in Melbourne and Wellington but adjusting to life on his own has been a challenge.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"When you're not under the same roof you grew up [under] and don't have high school teachers running around after you to get things done ... the big bad world can be daunting and harsh," he says.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"You've got to get up off your backside and start holding yourself accountable for your future."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Kelly Hoskin was disappointed to realise how little a bachelor's degree is worth "once you are out in the big wide world", while Tiam Maghsodi misses her family and says "Dunedin is so many airports away from anywhere else".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

For some, it has been a struggle to find work in tough economic times. Melissa Broughton and her husband survived on a limited income for several months after they moved to a farm near Gore and she was unable to find a job in banking, her usual line of work.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

But she points out that her Gore High School motto was Palma Non Sine Pulvere "or the Southland equivalent, ''no spuds without digging" and hardship is not such a bad thing.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"If you know what it is to sacrifice, you'll learn what it is to appreciate."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Brendan Connor says the recession has made him more conscious of the fact that employers will not necessarily be falling over themselves to give him a "cruisy, high-paying job".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The reduced number of jobs available reinforced Logan Penniket's desire to continue studying, and fellow student Scott Campbell does not see the future being as secure as he once thought.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

However, Rachel Grout says she gets her satisfaction from things other than money, and more affordable mortgage interest rates made it easier for Rachel Byrne to buy her first home.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

For the first time we asked if environmental concerns affect how the group lives.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The response of solicitor Sheena Kirkland was typical of many - small things such as recycling and composting are slowly becoming second nature.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Scott Campbell has changed his diet, pays attention to how consumer goods are produced and packaged, and last year found himself before the Dunedin City Council making a sustainability-related submission - something he never envisaged himself doing.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Tim Muller avoids buying from or applying for jobs at firms that he has reason to believe are environmentally irresponsible, while living in Germany has shown Logan Penniket how far New Zealand has to go iareas such as recycling and public transport.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Nick Hoffman is concerned that power companies "want to dam every single free-flowing river we have left".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Asked about the other pressing issues facing his generation, farmer Sean Wilkins lists "terrorists, boy racers and manicured professional sportspeople".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Today's businesspeople have to work smarter, otherwise they are at risk of "just working week to week, living hand to mouth", he adds. Studying for five years, travelling overseas and gaining experience in their field means many will be "on the wrong side of 30 before getting their heads above water".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Others cite war, poverty, student debt, a lack of employment for graduates and the healthcare of an ageing population riddled with lifestyle diseases as concerns.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Doctor Victoria Taylor says the most important issues include keeping up with a rapid pace of change while still maintaining structure and direction, tackling ethical issues that new technology such as cloning introduces and staying connected in a community "despite the community format being more fragmented".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Pharmacist Joshua Freeman wonders if he and his peers will be able to buy their own homes as well as save for their retirement "because, let's face it, the pension will be well dead and buried by the time I reach 65".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Herman Visagie, who has law and commerce degrees as well as a diploma in Chinese language, says a key challenge for this "particularly privileged" generation is finding what they want to do.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Most have had comfortable upbringings and expect to have job satisfaction, success, flawless relationships and perfect lives: "What we are realising now is that life is not this easy and these dreams require work."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Others comment on how busy their lives are and how the number of choices available to them is almost overwhelming.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Tiam Magshodi claims one of the attributes of her age group is the ability to set and adjust short-term goals to help achieve long-term objectives. She is happy to take on new challenges as they arise because she does not want to look back at those opportunities and think, "What if?". But she is in no doubt that time is the biggest issue.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"There is so much I want to do, so much I want to see and even more that I want to achieve. And even though I'm only 24, I don't know how and when I'll squeeze it all in."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

- kim.dungey@odt.co.nz

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.


Dancing beside the sea in Mexico

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"I'm living my dream," Tania Ashby says in an email sent from a mall near her posh Mexican hotel.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"Sometimes it's really hard to be on the other side of the world away from family and friends but, for now, this is where I want to be and I am so happy."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Ashby has spent nearly three years working as a dancer and choreographer in Mexico's most popular tourist destinations. Employed by an international hotel chain, she rehearses with her dance team during the day and performs in shows at night.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Right now, she is based at Los Cabos on the Baja California peninsula, known for its white sandy beaches, deep-sea fishing, snorkelling and golf courses.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The former Waitaki Girls High School pupil moved to Mexico after completing a BA in performing arts and a graduate diploma of teaching in Dunedin.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Two weeks after registering on the talent website StarNow.com, she was contacted by a Canadian company that employs foreigners on dance contracts in Mexico. Forty hours later, she arrived in the country unable to speak a word of Spanish.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Looking at photos of the hotel in which she lives for free explains why the former Class Act recipient is in no hurry to return home.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The new beachfront resort has 547 suites, including 24 swim-up suites; seven themed restaurants, several pools, a world-class spa and a 526-seat theatre where her dance team performs six nights a week for mainly foreign audiences.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The performances encompass many styles of dance, with themes ranging from Broadway to '70s and '80s music and a Latin fire show.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Ashby says the most difficult to learn was Mexican folklore dance, which she describes as a combination of tap and Irish but "oozing with Mexican culture".

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The 24-year-old loves Dunedin but says nowhere in New Zealand could offer her the same opportunity to dance in nightly shows, live in hotel accommodation and receive an income.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"As far as my other career teaching goes, there is an incentive for me to return [to New Zealand] and teach in secondary [schools] because I know the place well and it feels like home. But, for now, I am happy ... in this exotic paradise."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Ashby has no plans for the future, saying it depends on what contracts she is offered.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"I would love to make it to the stage in New York or London."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.


Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Something else to sell

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

At 13, Sonali was stolen from her Indian village and sold into prostitution.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Bashanti was sold into the sex trade by her mother so that the rest of her poverty-stricken family could eat.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Although names have been changed, the stories are familiar to former Class Act award recipient Tim Muller. For the past year he has been in Kolkata, India, working on a voluntary basis for Freeset, an organisation that offers freedom to women in forced prostitution.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Many of the women are trafficked, kidnapped or sold into the trade, while others are driven into it by poverty, Muller says.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Established by a New Zealand couple, Freeset produces fair trade T-shirts and bags, mostly for the international event and conference market.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"We train and employ the women to make these products, giving our 160 (and counting) employees a genuine economic alternative to the sex trade."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The 24-year-old manages the screenprinting department, where 20 women print about 1000 T-shirts and jute bags daily.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"It's been a steep learning curve as I didn't know anything much about screenprinting before I came," he says. "But it's been good fun and it's an awesome privilege to work with such an amazing bunch of women."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

A former Cromwell College pupil with science and history degrees from the University of Otago, Muller says he and wife Sarah will return to New Zealand when their visas expire next month.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Volunteering has taught him many things, he adds.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

But probably the most challenging is how to help people in a way that's not selfishness in disguise and [that] treats the recipient as an equal.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.


Ingrid   Crawford with a patient in the paediatric ward of Hospital EsSalud in   Cusco, Peru, last year. Photo supplied.A healthy appreciation for others' needs

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Working in a public hospital high in the Andes showed Ingrid Crawford how well-provided-for New Zealanders are.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Travelling to Peru during her final-year medical elective last year meant tackling altitude, a new language, a different hospital culture and scarce resources, the 24-year-old says.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Medication and food had to be paid for by each patient's family, the infectious disease ward had cold running water not fit for drinking and there were no gloves for medical staff.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

Crawford took medical equipment bought by the Medical Aid Abroad Programme, with which she has been involved, and says it was humbling to see how grateful the hospital was for the donation.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

However, the trip was also exciting and colourful, with festivals, a trip to the jungle and a trek through mountain villages to the famous Inca site, Machu Picchu.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

A former Queen's High School pupil, Crawford moved to Christchurch almost four years ago for the clinical part of her medical training and has stayed on to work at Christchurch Hospital this year.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

The junior doctor had no idea what she would end up doing when given an Otago Daily Times Class Act award seven years ago but says now she cannot imagine herself doing anything else.

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"Being a doctor can have its moments but despite the challenges, it's immensely rewarding and a real privilege to be involved in the lives of the patients I care for."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

"And the exciting thing is that I have no idea what I'll be doing in another seven years. Medicine is such a varied and growing field and I'm not sure exactly where to next."

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.


 

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

 

Sarah and Tim Muller.
Sarah and Tim Muller.

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