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A healthy balance between studying and knowing when to relax has been the key to success for Kaikorai Valley College head boy Reuben Cook.
The 18-year-old says he has found the balance between rest and studiousness, which has helped him achieve his goals.
He was named the top academic in his year group in year 12, and has received numerous academic awards throughout his time at high school.
"Yes, I’ve received a few awards, but most of the time I’m not thinking about the award — it’s more trying to get the best I can get, for myself.
"During school and class I concentrate and engage a lot, and then when I’m home I find time to have a break and relax a little."
Reuben says his success can be attributed to setting personal goals and achieving them, rather than worrying about comparison and how others may perceive him.
"I think it’s important to do your own thing.
"Also taking time to have a break so I don’t overwork myself is important."
He thought his selection to be head boy was because of his involvement in many areas of school life.
He plays social rugby, takes cello lessons, is involved in kapa haka and peer support and is a house leader.
In his spare time he plays the drums and enjoys the challenge of playing instruments.
"It’s nice when you get to the level of being good at an instrument and can show it off a bit."
His leadership skills had developed during high school.
"This year, as well, having a small cohort made me step up a bit."
This year, he is studying physics, chemistry, statistics, English and calculus, and hopes to get into computer programming or something in the science field.
He considers his top subjects maths and science.
"Next year I want to study at the University of Otago. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do but something in science."
Achievements: School top academic excellence awards (2014-17, 2019); national certificate in maths (2018); NCEA level 1 with excellence (2018); NCEA excellence course endorsement in science, mathematics (2018); NCEA merit endorsement in English and Japanese (2018); NCEA level 2 with excellence (2019); NCEA excellence endorsement in physics and maths (2019); NCEA merit endorsement in Japanese and chemistry (2019); secondary school orchestra (2017-19); Sadd committee member (2020); Otago U38kg rugby (2013-14); Otago U45kg rugby (2015); Koru Games first place touch team member (2015); head boy (2020); house leader (2020); peer support (2020).
Role models: My parents, always there when I need them.
Hopes for the future: Get into computer programming or something science-related.
"Lean into your discomfort."
Pushing outside of her comfort zone has helped Kaikorai Valley College head girl Chikita Lee to find confidence.
The 17-year-old said that when her dad told her a quote about discomfort a couple of years ago, she decided to embrace it fully and start doing things she was scared of.
"It applies to everything in life. Leaning into that discomfort has helped me to succeed and has definitely helped me change my mindset from dreading doing things to seeing them as more of a positive challenge.
"Applying to head girl was a big moment. It was a last-minute decision and took a lot of courage to hand in my application.
"I think that’s one of my proudest moments is applying for head girl and being successful."
Chikita applied this philosophy to other areas of her life, including dance, picking up jazz and ballet again last year having dropped it as a child.
"I was very old to start it up again but just went for it."
She achieved merit in her ballet exam and high honours in her jazz exam.
"The work you put in is results you get and no-one else can affect that.
"The whole of this year I’ve been very proud of myself; I keep trying to extend myself even when it’s hard and I don’t want to.
"Doing things even though they scare me is hugely important."
She plays netball for the senior A team, having picked up the sport in recent years after playing it when she was younger.
Chikita enjoys maths and science, and hopes to utilise what she has learnt next year.
Next year, she hopes to complete first-year health science at the University of Otago.
"Psychology interests me as well, so we’ll see where next year takes me."
Achievements: Level 1 endorsed with merit (2018); merit endorsement maths and art (2018); NCEA level 2 endorsed with merit (2019); merit endorsements physics and chemistry (2019); Zonta award for achievement in sciences and maths (2019); SADD committee member (2020); 40-hour famine (2020); school dance blues (2019); NZ Association of Modern Dance jazz exam high honours (2019); senior A netball team (2019, 2020); South Island Secondary Schools netball tournament team (2019); head girl (2020); peer support (2020); University of Otago Young Women in Leadership programme (2020).
Role models: My parents and friends, for helping me to succeed.
Hopes for the future: Impact the world in my own way.