Four of the Waikato region’s most inspiring Kiwis have been honoured for their courage and outstanding community contribution, as part of the Graeme Dingle Foundation’s 2017 Excellence Awards, held at Government House in Auckland.
Raynard Haggie and Andrea Thomas received the Kiwi Can Outstanding Team Leader Award, for their work at Huntly West School. This award is presented to a Kiwi Can leader team which makes a significant difference in the lives of young people in their local community.
“We are very dedicated to our students at Huntly West and for myself I feel as though the students that attend the school are like my own children,” Andrea says. “Although it may sound really cliche´ , if both Raynard and I can help change at least one or two students attitudes towards life, this then means we are doing our job right.”
For the 200 in attendance, the evening was also an opportunity to hear first-hand the experiences of a number of graduates who have taken part in the Foundation’s transformational journey, and the positive impact it has had on their lives.
A Stars Peer Mentor Award is given to a student who is making a significant difference in the lives of juniors in their school, and this year it was awarded to Year 13 student, Lahaina Solomon of Tokoroa High School.
“I am privileged to receive this award but I believe that I would not be able to accept it without recognising the hard work of my 60 mentors, seven senior mentors and fellow head students,” Lahaina says. “Together, we have been able to lead the Stars programme within our school, and transition our Year 9 students from intermediate to high school.
“We believe in making this transition as easy and entertaining as possible for our students, and we are grateful to see that our investment and contribution towards our students is being recognised by the Graeme Dingle Foundation.” Lahaina said.
Fraser High School‘s Kaha Head was also honoured, receiving the Career Navigator Outstanding Achievement Award. Career Navigator is a ready-forwork programme designed to help guide secondary school students. The award acknowledges the outstanding progress made by a graduate.
“Being on the Career Navigator programme this year helped me in a big way,”Kaha says. “I have gained confidence, my school work has improved, I have goals for the first time ever and have decided I want to pursue a career in engineering.”
The evening acknowledged the significant accomplishments of 15 successful young Kiwis, many of whom have climbed big mountains to build resilience and self-belief. It was also a celebration of more than 24,000 students, their mentors, leaders and volunteers who have been involved in the Foundation’s various youth development programmes over the previous 12 months — including Kiwi Can, Stars, Career Navigator and Project K.
The Foundation’s namesake, mountaineer and outdoor education pioneer, Sir Graeme Dingle, says the Awards are an important opportunity to showcase a select number of inspiring Kiwi kids who exemplify the goals and values of the Foundation.
“Our goal is to transform young lives forever, with a vision that all young people can be confident contributors to New Zealand. By the year 2025, our mission is to have helped 50,000 young people in our programmes each year. It’s nights like this which serve as a strong reminder that investing in our country’s young people is the best investment New Zealand can make.
“The awards highlight not only some of the circumstances and harsh realities a lot of our Kiwi kids face, but most importantly, celebrates their courage and resilience to be able to come out the other side too.
“It’s these young people who will serve as role models to those in similar situations, helping us to challenge others to change their perceptions of what they think they can achieve. And for that, they absolutely deserve recognition. We could not be more proud of each and every one of our winners,” he said.
Graeme Dingle Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding young New Zealanders across all the foundation’s programmes and has been running for almost two decades.
(Left to right): Andrea Thomas, Lahaina Solomon, Kaha Head, Raynard Haggie.