Class Act: Lawrence Area School

Rebecca Benington
Rebecca Benington
Rebecca Benington

Lawrence Area School head pupil Rebecca Benington is keeping her career options open.

Planning to study for a bachelor of science majoring in ecology at the University of Otago next year, the 18-year-old has enjoyed immersing herself in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Hailing from a Mt Stuart sheep and beef farm, the overlap of ecology and agriculture is an area of particular interest for the academic-leaning year 13 pupil.

"Ecology has the core of all the sciences in there, and studying environmental science has real-world applications as to what’s actually happening now."

She had enjoyed a recent field project in this arena.

"We had to test the water quality in the Waitahuna and Tuapeka rivers in our area, using a range of measures to assess water health and biodiversity.

"Turns out the water’s in good health, and farming appears not to be having a negative impact at this time."

She said the demands of NCEA had meant putting some of her more relaxing pastimes aside during recent months.

"I used to play keyboard — and netball — but not right now due to time and practicality."

Although she was the family’s first Class Act nominee, older brother Bradley was also head student of Lawrence Area School, in 2018.

Rebecca said all three of her older siblings, and parents, had been "quite proud" to hear of her nomination.

"I think they might have slightly expected it of me, because I always just get my head down and get on with things."

She said she enjoyed the leadership elements of her head pupil role.

"It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit, organising assemblies and so on. But I enjoy going round the little kids and being a role model."

She said she looked forward to being a woman in the sciences.

"There are more and more women going into the field, so it’ll be great to be a part of that, wherever it takes me."

Achievements: Head Student 2021; NCEA Level 1 Merit (2019); NCEA Level 2 Merit (2020); New Zealand Area Schools Leadership course (2021); Outward Bound Mind Body and Soul course (2019); GirlBoss Edge course through MPI (2020); Academic Award (2017, 2018, 2020); McCarron Cup for academic excellence (2019); Tuapeka Tecorians Senior Speech Trophy (2019); Lawrence Lions Evans Bequest for Diligence (2020); Shirley Omer-Copper award for success in Social Sciences (2020); Barista course (2020).

Role model: GirlBoss Edge founder Alexia Hilbertidou for helping young women develop leadership qualities and find pathways into industry.

Hopes for the future: Revisiting my interest in digital design and seeing where that takes me.

Lee Heppel- Pukehika
Lee Heppel- Pukehika
Lee Heppel- Pukehika

A career in the armed forces beckons for Waitahuna 17-year-old Lee Heppel-Pukehika.

The Lawrence Area School year 13 pupil joined the NZCF City of Dunedin Cadet Unit in 2019 and hasn’t looked back, since rising to Lance Corporal.

He said family associations with the military planted the seed of the idea, but the experience of working as part of a cohesive team had kept him engaged, and keen to take it further.

"My family has a military history going back to the New Zealand Land Wars, and there have always been one or two members down the years.

"I just enjoy the bond within the team, and between the team and the whole force."

He said his role as Lance Corporal entailed a certain amount of responsibility for his fellow cadets.

"You’ve got to ensure they’re healthy, happy, and learning the skills they need to succeed."

His military cadet activities jibed well with his wider interests and skills, which he said lay more towards the practical.

"I really enjoy carpentry and construction. I picked up my entry level BCATS for carpentry last year, so that may be an area I look to get into more."

He hoped to enter the armed forces for officer training, while studying for his eventual tertiary qualifications.

"Pursuing a career as an officer is my goal."

The keen athlete already ticks the fitness box towards that end.

"I love all distance running; 1500 metres is my best distance."

He underwent a sharp learning curve in 1500m race strategy in the Otago Secondary School Athletics Championships earlier this year.

"It’s a combination of sprinting and pacing yourself. I was pleased to come in fifth against some experienced runners."

He said he would miss Lawrence as he departed for fresh fields next year.

"It’s a great school and community. You get to know people pretty closely."

Achievements: NCEA Level 1 Merit endorsement (2019); NCEA Level 2 Achieved, (2020); Lawrence Lions Evans Bequest for Diligence (2018); New Zealand Area Schools Leadership course, (2021); delivered Anzac Address at Lawrence commemoration (2021); Lawrence Area School Student Leadership Team (2021); SADD committee (2021); LAS Board of Trustees Student Trustee (2019-21); NZCF City of Dunedin Cadet Unit Lance Corporal (member 2019-to date); LAS Area Schools Tournament team member (2018-21); Fair  Play recipient (2021); represented Southern Area Schools in football and Ki O Rahi at the NZAS national tournament (2021); Senior Boys Cross-country champion, Soper Cup (2019); Otago Secondary School Athletics Championships (2018-21), placing 5th in 1500m in senior boys (2021); Otago Polytechnic Carpentry BCATS course (2020); Barista course (2020).

Role model: My Dad, for showing what hard work and determination can achieve.

Hopes for the future: Pursuing a career as an NZ Army officer.

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