Class Act 2019: East Otago High School

Lauren Keen and Hannah Paton are the 2019 Class Act recipients for East Otago High School.

Lauren Keen
Lauren Keen
Lauren Keen

''Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.''

The George Eliot quote highlights why East Otago High School pupil Lauren Keen loves animals so much.

The 17-year-old was raised on a lifestyle block near Palmerston where she has helped raise sheep and cattle since she was a preschooler.

While they are like family members to her, they serve another purpose.

They have been sold off over the years, to raise money for her tertiary education.

Along the way, she has discovered they get sick from time to time, which has fostered her interest in becoming a veterinarian.

''I've had some times when we've had some pet lambs that have been sick and the vets haven't been able to figure out what was wrong.

''I've been able to save a couple by doing my own research.

''It was probably a bad thing to do, but they were so sick at the time, it was either do that or do nothing.''

Not only does she love animals, she has a strong passion for the welfare of her fellow pupils.

She is a strong leader and humanitarian at school, where she is head pupil, secretary for the student council, and a student representative on the board of trustees this year.

In previous years, she has been a house leader, a cultural captain, a school dance group leader, a student council class representative, and a committee member of the East Otago Musical Theatre company.

She says it is important, especially in a small school like East Otago High School, for senior pupils to step up into leadership roles, build relationships with junior pupils and become good role models for them.

''I try to be what I would have wanted in a role model at their age.

''I want people to be empathetic, friendly, understanding and driven.''

She says the world can be tough at times, and there is always room for a little kindness.

Achievements: Head pupil (2019); NCEA levels 1 and 2 with excellence; school prizes for overall excellence (2013-18), academic achievement (2015-18); East Otago Musical Theatre committee (2017-19); student council secretary (2019); BoT student rep (2019); house leader (2017-18); cultural captain (2018); school dance group leader (2018); student council class rep (2013-17); 1st school senior speech competition (2018); school production lead role and choreographer (2019); school award for arts (2017-18); East Otago Musical Theatre dedicated dancer award (2018); Hands-On at Otago University Performing Arts programme (2015); 1st XI hockey captain (2019), vice-captain (2018); year 7 and 8 hockey coach (2017-18); SISS Tournament hockey team and MVP (2018); school senior girls swimming champion (2017-18), 100m freestyle, 50m freestyle record holder (2018), 50m breaststroke record holder (2017).

Role model: My mum.

Hopes for the future: To study veterinary science at Massey University.


Hannah Paton
Hannah Paton
Hannah Paton

There's nothing like climbing a mountain to put your world in perspective.

East Otago High School head pupil and outdoors enthusiast Hannah Paton (18) has found climbing mountains can be dangerous, requiring equal measures of physical strength, mental strength and endurance.

And continuing to climb a mountain when conditions get ''rough and sketchy'' has taught her many life lessons.

It has given her the grit and determination needed, to be successful in other aspects of her life - especially in academia.

In the past three years alone, she has summitted Mt Earnslaw (2830m) and Mt Alaska (1965m) in Mt Aspiring National Park, and Mt Bierstadt (4287m) in the United States.

''I definitely get my passion for the outdoors and mountaineering from my parents and grandparents.

''My whole family have always been really into it, and it's a great way for us to bond together and enjoy the beauty of creation.

''I'm not sure if I can quite claim it, but I climbed my first mountain when I was 18 months old.

''My parents chucked me in a backpack and took me up Grays and Torreys Peaks [4338m and 4337m].''

Born in Colorado, United States, surrounded by mountains, it's not surprising she loves the great outdoors so much.

Hannah says summitting mountains is a feeling like no other.

''You get a bit of a bug for it.

''It can be very difficult, but I just love the feeling you get when you summit.

''It's such an exhilarating feeling, just being able to look out at everything that you've just accomplished.''

Hannah has no dreams of climbing Mt Everest at this stage.

She only wants to climb mountains that her family can climb with her.

''I really appreciate New Zealand and I just want to explore all the amazing bush and mountains that we have in our own backyard.''

So for now, her main dream is to study health sciences at the University of Otago next year, and go on to forge a career in physiotherapy.

Achievements: Head pupil (2019); NCEA levels 1 and 2 with excellence; Otago University Advanced School Sciences Academy (2019); academic tutor (2018, 2019); Anzac Day Service public address (2019); school awards for academic and sporting excellence (2018); school spirit award (2018); summitted Mt Earnslaw (2019); 1st XI hockey (2016, 2018-19); girls rugby (2019); running club leader (2018-19); completed the Routeburn and Abel Tasman tracks (2019); summitted Mt Alaska (2018); summitted Mt Bierstadt (2017); BoT student rep (2019); kapa haka senior leader (2017-19); DCBC youth leader (2017-19); CYC Waihola Camp leader (2015-19); Live Salted ambassador (2019); house captain (2018); cultural captain (2018); school dance group co-leader (2018).

Role model: My parents.

Hopes for the future: To study health science and then physiotherapy at the University of Otago.

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