Class Act 2019: St Hilda’s Collegiate School

Olivia Hall and Tamara Mason are the 2019 Class Act recipients for St Hilda’s Collegiate School.

Olivia Hall
Olivia Hall
Olivia Hall

Until six months ago, Olivia Hall (18) had her whole life planned out.

The St Hilda's Collegiate School head girl was going to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force next year and train to become a helicopter pilot.

But in term 2, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, which shattered her dreams of flying.

For years, her body would ''jerk'' when she got tired, she said.

''I just thought everybody got that when they were tired.''

Her condition came to a head during the term 1 holidays, when she was working on a local dairy farm.

The combination of early morning starts, stress and fatigue resulted in her having a couple of seizures.

''Now that I've been diagnosed, no-one can let me fly; I can't even be considered.''

Rather than become despondent about the situation, Olivia has quickly reassessed her options and is now looking at a career in the agriculture industry.

''I've dealt with it by taking a deep breath and saying 'get over yourself; there's people out there with bigger problems than me'.

''I was watching a film recently about a man with no legs who was doing rock climbing, and I was thinking I've just got epilepsy

... There are people like that out there who are doing all these amazing things.

''It was inspiring.''

Olivia was born and raised on a Maniototo farm. Her family has a long history of sheep farming so she already has a wealth of experience in the industry.

She's thinking about studying agriculture at Lincoln University next year, and maybe branching out into environmental management.

She's also thinking about studying psychology in the hope she can combine the two and find ways to encourage farmers to make changes to their practices that are more environmentally friendly but still practical.

''Farming gets a bad rap when it comes to the environment, and it's not always fair.

''I can understand both sides of the argument.

''Some aspects of farming need to change, but the way farmers are - they can be pretty reserved and set in their ways - it's going to be a big mission to change what has always been done.''

Achievements: Head girl (2019); NCEA levels 1 and 2 with excellence; selected for High Performance Sport NZ Otago-based hockey training (2018-19); Southern Hockey U18 rep (2017-19), vice-captain (2019); school 1st XI hockey (2015-19), captain (2019); Otago secondary schools girls cricket (2016-19); school 1st XI cricket (2015-19); NZ secondary school cricket champions (2016, 2018); 3rd XI hockey coach (2017-19); service blue (2018); academic blues (2017-18); cricket blues (2016-18); hockey blues (2016-18).

Role model: David Attenborough.

Hopes for the future: To study something around agriculture and the environment at Lincoln University.


Tamara Mason
Tamara Mason
Tamara Mason

Tamara Mason says you can never truly appreciate the things you have, until you experience life without them.

So the St Hilda's Collegiate 17-year-old plans to take a gap year next year and spend six months exploring South America.

She was inspired to make the journey after winning a trip to Brazil in the 2018 Entrepreneurs in Action national business case competition, and going on a World Challenge trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2017.

She said the trips had shown her how beautiful South America is, but had also opened her eyes to the challenges of life there.

''Seeing countries where people have so little, especially in education, will make me appreciate the gift of education even more.''

Tamara has an outstanding academic record.

She gained NCEA level 1 and 2 with excellence in 2017 and 2018, and is a particularly high achiever in economics and maths where she gained level 2 in the subjects in 2017, and level 3 in 2018.

And this year, she is already studying 100-level mathematics at Canterbury University.

Her high achievement across a broad range of subjects led her to attend the CASE Space School in Houston, Texas, this year.

There, she got to work alongside some of the world's greatest minds at Nasa.

In 2020, she plans to study astrophysics at Canterbury University, and ultimately, she hopes to work for Nasa, using her skills in astrophysics to assist in deep space exploration.

''I've loved space exploration since I was young and I worked at Nasa recently for two weeks.

''I met such inspirational people that are in the field of astrophysics and are doing great things for space exploration.

''It really appeals to me.''

Achievements: Arts prefect (2019); NCEA levels 1 and 2 with excellence; level 2 economics and maths (2017); level 3 economics and maths (2018); taking Canterbury University 100-level maths paper (2019); top all-round year 12 pupil (2017); top academic year 12 (2018); bronze Duke of Edinburgh (2017); national secondary schools U15 octuple rowing bronze medallist in U15 octuple (2017); Otago rep coxswain (2017-18); National Youth Drama School short film lead role (2017); National Youth Drama School participant (2018-19); school senior A debate team (2017-19); selected for World Challenge in Nicaragua and Costa Rica (2017); Young Enterprise team CEO (2018); Entrepreneurs in Action winning team (2018); travelled to Brazil to take part in business competitions with local pupils and to meet businesses (2018); CASE Space School participant (2019).

Role models: The great astrophysicists and astronauts.

Hopes for the future: To take a gap year and then study astrophysics at the University of Canterbury.

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