Top marks for unsung hero
Gurjas Sekhon’s list of achievements and activities is enough to make most mere mortals pass out with exhaustion — and that’s just reading about him.
Gurjas is described as ‘exceptional’ by his teachers and although he may be passing university papers while still at high school, the Year 12 St John student hasn’t always found learning easy.
“Ever since I started primary I found both literacy and mathematics difficult and struggled immensely, which is why I was in support classes in Year 3.”
With English as a second language, Gurjas father began studying at EIT in 2008 so he could help educate his children.
“He taught me simple arithmetic, reading and writing and I was quite quick at learning these areas. I knew from this age that learning was a passion.”
Gurjas says this simple arithmetic turned into complex algebra, geometry and statistics which progressed to science.
“Soon I was winning Otago mathematics and mathletic competitions as well as winning science fairs. By the end of Year 8 I won a Royal Society award for my science fair on viscous liquids.”
Gurjas became an independent learner, moving on to public speaking and playing cricket, making the Hawke’s Bay under 15 cricket team in Years 9 and 10.
This year, Gurjas sat five scholarship exams, and was placed first in his Stage two Canterbury University paper, scoring an A+.
“He is an amazing young man,” says HOD English, Lyndie Balfour.
Last year he sat Stage One mathematics and engineering papers via distant learning at Canterbury University, gaining a final mark of 97 per cent, also an A+.
“Gurjas showed remarkable maturity, initiative and independence studying workshops and seminars on-line. This year he sat scholarship external examinations in calculus, chemistry, biology, physics and geography.”
Lyndie says Gurjas is also something of an unsung hero at school, tutoring students in maths and choosing to stay at school for five years when he could have left earlier to go to university.
“He’s one of my senior debaters, a keen English scholar and an exceptional academic. He is also being short listed for the New Zealand Chemistry Olympian team, with the chance to compete in Paris in 2019.”
Gurjas says he is never bored — every question which challenges him, always intrigues him.
“I keep attempting until I know it is correct and if I cannot solve it, I check the answer and see where I went wrong. This has been my motivation since I was very young.”
However, it’s not all about the school work. Gurgas list of of extra curricular activities is also longer than your arm. He is the leader of the student council, a member of the ‘young Vinnies’ — part of the school’s Catholic character, frequent scripture reader at school mass and a member of the senior A debating team. He is a badminton champion, a Hastings Youth Council representative, Board of Trustees student representative for St John’s College, a member of the Napier Old Boys Marist Cricket premiers team, a school lab assistant, school volunteer and member of the school environmental group.
“I have recently also applied as a UN Youth representative for my school and to do Duke of Edinburgh next year, as well as gaining a role in the school production for next year. I will also be competing in the Race Unity speech competition next year.”
This year his university study has earned him 97 per cent for mathematics and a $15,000 scholarship if he studies a maths-based course at the University. He has his own philosophy on managing the extra workload.
“I think being able to study effectively and work effectively is more advantageous than simply overly exaggerated study. Effectively working enables me to save time as well as learn more in a certain period of time, allowing more time to be spent on extra curriculum too.”
Making his parents happy and enjoying learning also keeps Gurjas motivated. Helping other students was done “purely for the betterment of others”.
“This was a personal action and allowed others to pass their exams or gain higher grades. I felt as if the science and maths department at St John’s had given a lot to me and it was time to give back.”
Gurjas pays tribute to many teachers who have supported him, argued for him, written references and taught him independence.
“Mrs Pickering and Mr McFarland tutored me after school hours for scholarship biology and calculus. Mr Pohlenz who joined this year helped me hugely with his massive knowledge in physics, calculus and chemistry. I felt that giving back to these three teachers was a priority and by taking tutoring classes I could give back some way.” Gurjas hopes to study medicine after leaving school.
“I hope in the future I can open my own medical practice here in the Bay.”
Watch this space.