Top marks for un­sung hero

Napier Courier - - News - BY BRENDA VOWDEN [email protected]

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.

Gur­jas Sekhon.

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