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Leadership and responsibility part of their daily life and work

Hugo Smith de Zeeuw and Francie Lidgard are the head students of Mercury Bay Area School, with a roll of almost 1000 students. Every school has head students and it is quite a process and an honour to have been selected for this role.
 |  Pauline Stewart  | 

Both Francie and Hugo are very conscious of this. The Informer spent time with the two  talking about their understanding of being a head student and also their views on Anzac Day. Both Francie and Hugo will be leading part of the Dawn Service at Soldiers Memorial Park, Whitianga on Anzac Day, reading out the names of the fallen from this district from World War One and Two.

Francie: “I believe a head student needs to feel strong in who they are, with an understanding of their own values and the values of the school.

We need to lead by example especially for the sake of little ones. They are always watching you. What I am trying to do is encourage strong individualism in them and help them feel proud of themselves. I aim to inspire the whole kura but it’s those little ones who are so open and wanting to learn.  With the age range from new entrants at five years right through to our own age, it’s a big task which is very different from being head student in a city college where it is Years 8 to Years 13. I love the fact we have this age range.

With anything hard, the key is to stay strong in who you are. Others’ opinions and judgments should not change who you are. Being strong to me is being resilient – treating challenges and even failures as a learning opportunity. Resilience also means  knowing that you are not perfect, and you feel good about the fact that others can do some things better than you.

Hugo: I feel honoured to be one of the head students. I see it as a two-part tole. I am the face of the school wherever I go, embracing the Kauri values. It can’t be just a title, applying our strengths out there in our community is key. I get strength from the people around me. I have learned a lot about leadership for my Dad – especially personal values and management. I learned a lot from a Waikato Heads Up leadership camp. These contribute to my abilities and take me out of my comfort zone.  Learning to be a firefighter in the Cooks Beach Fire brigade and becoming a firefighter has taught me so much on an intellectual and personal scale.

I have a very big fear of public speaking. This role is the perfect environment to overcome that.  I may never conquer it totally and those shakes might still come when  go to speak or even after I speak, but I will still get up and speak.”

Francie: It is not just us. We have a whole team with us. They each bring a different perspective. They bring their strengths to the task of leadership and organising.

When I have a moment of spare time, I often ask myself, “What more can I do as a head student?”  Sometimes it is hard to relax.

Hugo: I think one of our roles is also to be students. Balancing things is part of it. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and stressed and what helps me is getting outside and heading for a big mountain or a great hill – climbing is a big passion for me.   

Francie: Recently, I had to have three weeks away from school – wasn’t well and then  I has surf camp and netball camp. Everything kept going; there wa so much support to rely on and the team of student leads were great.

Hugo: The staff are there to support you.  They help a lot. The school encourages outs=door activities. If you really want to do something like produce music; become skilled in outdoor activities; or say, I am a firefighter – the school lets you be called out in an emergency. That attitude says a lot.

We both have part time jobs – I work in a Fish and Chips shop and Francie works at Luke’s Kitchen. A lot of young people have part – time jobs. It’s a good thing. We want to be independent but still need the support and wisdom of others.”

Thinking about ANZAC

Hugo: We need to remember the original purpose and bring respect to that. A having empathy for those caught up in war situations or whose loved ones are.

Applying the meaning to our current world is not s easy. New Zealand is very sheltered.

There is a lot of doom and gloom overshadowing our world, but I have a lot of optimism for New Zealand with our current culture.

I believe everyone has a positive side even if it’s not there at first meeting or observation. There is generally something you can find to which you can relate.

Francie: Anzac is about honouring those who went before us. So many of them died and some were our age. They didn’t have a chance to build a life. They are the people who made this country and sustained the freedom we have.

We don’t know who they are, but we know a little of what they did and why they went off to fight in wars. Honouring them keeps that alive.  I want to be a part of that.

To close the interview, The Informer asked Francie and Hugo to summarise their values.

Hugo: Respect, optimism, resilience – it’s all about the people.

Francie: Kindness, positivity, optimism – make the most of every day you have. Life goes pretty fast.

Using Hugo’s words “I have a lot of optimism for this country”.  I believe this is a reflection of the spirit and attitude of many of our young adults.

We are fortunate and the school is fortunate to have their leadership.