A local Maori school has achieved a proud first after a student won a regional secondary speech competition.
Te Wharekura o Mauao Year 10 student Olivia Mokomoko came first in her section at the regional Mataatua Nga Manu Korero speech contest at Mangatapu Marae recently.
Although the school had been to nationals twice in the past five years in the English section, it was the first time a student had represented the school and region at nationals in the Maori section, a big achievement for the school, assistant principal Heywood Kuka said.
Miss Mokomoko's section, junior Maori language, required her to write and present a 12-minute speech in te reo on the topic 'ko maua ko taku hoe', where she spoke about the impact her ancestors and modern leaders have had on her life.
Originally from Opotiki, the 14-year-old said she found it interesting researching and learning more about her family history, but said her favourite part was having everyone watch her.
"I was excited and a little bit nervous. I just talk to my family before I stand and they just calm me down."
It was her second year in the regional competition, last year she placed second.
Miss Mokomoko missed the speech prizegiving due to netball commitments. It was not until later that day that a friend told her the good news.
"Me and my friends just started screaming and yelling on the side of the court," she said.
Mr Kuka said they are immensely proud of Miss Mokomoko as the prestigious competition was one of the highlights of the year for most Maori departments and schools.
He said it was a great opportunity to give children the confidence to stand in front of an audience, a skill they could use to move forward in life.
"It's about promoting the language instead of just being Maori, knowing that Maori language is for the whole nation," he said.
Miss Mokomoko would practice her speech everyday with help from her te reo teacher until she attended the national finals in Whangarei in September.
"I'm proud with whatever I get really, just making it to nationals is a big accomplishment as it is," she said.