Celebrating our Class Acts

Class Act is a highlight of the year for the Otago Daily Times.

We pride ourselves that our news coverage often goes far beyond ''bad'' news, albeit that the negative and the tragic are often significant and what many readers find themselves drawn to.

Many reports note success in our communities, businesses doing well and individuals winning awards. Sporting success, for example, is almost always marked with more excitement and prominence than failure.

Against that background, it is little wonder Class Act holds a special place. The 55 recipients this year are another sample of teenagers of whom we can all be proud.

They are a diverse lot marked by achievement and interest in leadership, sport, music, drama, arts, public speaking, academia and service. Almost all have extremely busy and productive lives, and their achievements and aspirations engender positivity about the future. Many, being talented across several fields, will have tough choices on which paths they follow.

Some have overcome difficulties, like the resilience of the young woman with dyslexia.

Class Act was established in 2000 by the ODT because the newspaper thought, and continues to believe, excellence should be encouraged and celebrated. We leave it to the secondary schools in Otago and Gore to make their choices, using ''excellence'' as their criteria.

We hear on occasions - and recognising the prestige of the award - how demanding schools can find it to narrow their choices and make final selections. Often there are many strong and divergent candidates. Often, too, those chosen are not going to be the dux or the highest achiever in sport.

We thank this country's prime ministers for always being so willing to take part. Since Class Act began - under ODT editor Robin Charteris - Helen Clark, John Key and Bill English have each impressed. Now, we are thrilled to have Jacinda Ardern take her place, as New Zealand's leading citizen, to say a few words, to present the certificates, and to mingle with proud parents and grandparents.

We are also pleased, in the lead-up to Class Act, to undertake the task of catching up with recipients 10 years on. This year it was the turn of the class of 2008 to be tracked down and interviewed by features writer Kim Dungey.

As was described in The Weekend Mix, friends and family were top priority for this cohort, despite most already having carved out successful starts to their careers. This is healthy and encouraging.

Several are still studying, in part because it take a long time to become fully established in some fields. Slightly more than a quarter are overseas. There are a sizeable number, eight, in law, and remarkably few in medicine considering it often attracts high flyers.

We have noted in the past not everyone will go on to be rocket scientists. But it so happens that one from 2008, Lachlan Matchett, from East Otago High School in Palmerston, is head of propulsion at Rocket Lab.

We recognise not everyone can be a star. A flourishing society depends on everyone playing their different parts built on their different strengths and capacities.

But we should still celebrate those in our midst who do well and who have such promise. Just as we should admire every one of us who contributes positively to our families and communities, so, too, should we all be proud of - and celebrate - our fellow citizens who lead the way and revel in excellence.

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