Three weeks ago I was preparing a speech for my graduation dinner, a chance to reflect on my time at high school. The past three years have been hugely transformative for me, extending beyond simply meeting the prerequisites to attend university.
At ACG Senior College I have been immersed in an environment that truly fosters individual learning. I have been presented with one opportunity after the other to encourage me to seek my purpose, which has allowed me to avoid what I call the 'high school auto-pilot'.
By that, I mean success seems to be perceived as short-term goal fulfilment, operating within boundaries and ticking boxes. But that discourages the behaviour of exploration and risk-taking necessary for one to find purpose in the real world.
We must question how long it takes for a generation of students, who look amazing on the outside but are hollow on the inside, burn out.
Not only will most of us spend our next few years at university or alternative tertiary institution, it is predicted we will each have 12-15 jobs in our lifetime - and most of them do not even exist yet. Without an intrinsic desire to succeed, there can be a lack of commitment and goal directedness to make progress, especially self-fulfilling and rewarding progress.
Educating students on self-purpose isn't something teachers can find through a wikiHow page. As a result, I know many teenagers who consider high school to be a stopover as they wait to advance through the next hoop.
Exploration is key to what I've learnt at ACG Senior College over the past three years and a crucial ingredient of my development. I have been encouraged to explore the world and discover what my strengths are, what I love doing, and my vision of the world. Through this, I have customised my definition of success and feel a sense of internal motivation from it.
My ultimate goal is to have a career in the United Nations - as my passion to make the world more sustainable, equal and happy continually drives me. In the short term, it has led me to balance a large workload between my studies and extra-curricular activities and push myself in both sectors.
One recent achievement resulting from this internal motivation is the UTOPIA Charity Ball, organised by eight other UNICEF Committee leaders from Auckland high schools and me. December 5 saw over 430 Year 11-13 students dress up glamorously for the fundraiser at Eden Park, raising around $3300 for UNICEF NZ's Syrian Children campaign.
The five-hour event had a difficult five-month planning process, as it was completely youth-run from contacting sponsors to choosing the colour of the up-lights.
Another memorable instance was when Mr Graham Gottard, our Associate Principal, encouraged me to apply to be Jacinda Ardern's Youth MP. Half a year later, I was seated in her chair at Youth Parliament set to speak about income inequality in NZ, an issue I have become particularly passionate about.
A month from now, I will be travelling to Europe and America as a delegate of the UN Youth NZ Global Development Tour to continue voicing my concerns on an international stage.
Mr Gottard's interest in the passions of students both inside and outside of school ended up being catalytic in discovery and pursuit of my 'global citizen' aspirations and I could not be more thankful.
The Global Citizenship Portfolio was set up to ensure all students knew their roles and responsibilities as a global citizen - and practical ways for them to contribute. Students can join the UNICEF Committee, UN Youth Group and Amnesty International Group through this portfolio.
I've been lucky enough to be in charge of the Global Citizenship Portfolio as well as Head Leader which has made me work harder than ever - but the work has come from a value-aligned and purposeful place. Leadership portfolios change each year to suit our needs and all Senior College events and committees are student-organised and -implemented.
For instance, several leaders organised the Pink Ribbon Lunch which included a presentation and Q&A session by a student's parent who had beaten breast cancer, a funny video on how to check yourself and delicious pastries to accompany all this.
We also organised ACG Model UN, which attracted 60 students across all ACG Schools. Students were able to play the role of a diplomat for the day, discussing topical issues in simulations of UN Committees. Not only was that engaging and valuable for participants, we derived enjoyment from the planning process and learned to be persevering, resourceful and industrious.
This speaks to the practice of continuous improvement or 'kaizen', meaning 'change for better' in regards to fitting structures around students rather than vice versa.
Being in an environment at ACG Senior College encouraging new ideas and initiatives has contributed to placing me on a never-ending path towards self-actualisation and fulfilment of my purpose.
Most high schoolers will not have a clearly defined purpose yet and that is completely OK. All I advocate is for students to be pro-active in choosing the right school for them, a school that promotes opportunities to cultivate a sustainable love of learning.
As Plutarch stated: "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled."