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After losing her father in 2013, Abby Cooper found connecting to her Maori heritage helped with the healing process.
"I lost part of myself when he died and have regained it through my culture."
The 18-year-old Queen’s High School Mareikura said it had been an important step for her to learn and share her new knowledge of Maori culture.
"It’s been really therapeutic for me to find out about my heritage ... you can learn to be a victim or a survivor."
Kapa haka had become one of her passions, and she had found success in the activity.
"I love the expression of culture through kapa haka."
She attended the national competition in 2018, and the regional competition in 2017 and last year.
"We qualified this year but couldn’t go because of Covid."
Abby was was grateful for the support and guidance of older girls in kapa haka and at school over the years.
"I want to be that for other young Maori and be a role model."
"If we build up our teina we will have a better future."
Abby was a teacher of the Waewae Kai Pakiaka group at school, which focused on teaching pupils Maori culture through songs, games and dance .
She hoped to study chemistry and Maori at the University of Otago, then go into teaching.
"I would like to be a teacher when I’m older so I can help kids to get on a good path."
Achievements: Nga Mareikura prefect (2020); NCEA levels 1 and 2 endorsed with excellence (2018-19); Queen’s Young Scholar Award(2018-19); academic blue (2018-19); Lead member He Waka Kotuia, winner of the regional kapa haka Hautonga (2019); national kapa haka competitions (2016, 2018); Te Reo Maori first in subject (2019); He Honore mo nga Tuakana award for senior Maori leadership (2019); kapa haka performance blue (2019); Pacific Island Performance Blue (2019); Waewae Kai Pakiaka tutor (2019); service to culture award for kapa haka (2019); cultural merit drama (2019); regional competition for Shakespeare Festival (2019); Mana Pounamu award (2018); member of He Waka Kotuia, top South Island school, national competitors (2018); kapa haka performance blue (2018); He Honore mo nga teina trophy for Junior Maori Leadership (2017); Amy Dunbar Trophy for Service and Involvement co-recipient (2017); Te Rauawa o te Pahi Science Extension Programme (2017); overall academic excellence award (2016); peer support leader (2020); poly council (2019-20); School musical (2018); Rotary Youth Programme of Enrichment Leadership Camp (2017); Growing NZ Innovation Challenge (2017).
Role model: My mother because she’s so strong and Whaea Cherie
Hopes for the future: Be happy and passionate about what I’m doing
Flying and leaping across the stage is where Abby McMullan feels most at home.
The 17-year-old Queen’s High School sports prefect has a passion for aerobics and has experienced national-level success.
"When I was in year 6, one of my mum’s colleagues suggested it to me and it started a massive passion.
"You’ve got to put in a lot of hard work to see results, so I love it."
She said performing on stage was one of the best feelings.
"It’s like a big family really when you’re practising and on stage."
Abby was selected to compete in the Federation of International Sports, Aerobics and Fitness Victoria Super Series in Melbourne this year, but was unable to attend due to Covid-19.
She has attended the national competition for aerobics since year 8, and placed in various roles each time.
"I’m also getting into coaching [aerobics] more now and really enjoying that."
Academically, Abby had received many school awards for excellence but said it did not come easily.
"I wish it came naturally. I have to work hard to understand things so I’m quite proud of how I’ve done."
Going to Outward Bound last year had been a life-changing experience for her.
"I realised I make a lot of excuses and avoid challenges but now I see them as a good thing not a bad thing.
"I want to push myself to do more running and complete a half-marathon."
Abby hopes to study physiotherapy at the University of Otago.
"I’ve had my fair share of injuries along the way so would like to help other people with that."
Achievements: Sports prefect (2020); NCEA level 1 and 2 endorsed with excellence (2018-19); Queens Young Scholar Award (2018-19); academic blues (2018-19); 1st with excellence history (2019); overall academic excellence award (2016-18); sporting blue, aerobics (2019); service to sport, aerobics (2019); scholarship to attend Outward Bound (2019); aerobics national competition placings — 3rd senior individual, 2nd teams (2019); school champion, aerobics (2018); sporting blue, aerobics (2018); service to sport, aerobics (2018); aerobics national competition placings — 3rd senior individual, 1st in team (2018); aerobics Otago competition — 1st individual, 1st pairs (2018); Amy Dunbar Trophy for a year 10 student for service and involvement co-recipient (2017); peer support leader (2020); school council (2019); librarian (2019); peer tutor (2019); Rypen leadership camp (2017); Growing NZ Innovation Challenge (2017).
Role model: Family, particularly my two older brothers
Hopes for future: Study at Otago and do physiotherapy