Four bright young Hawke's Bay students are among the country's top scholars and will reap thousands of dollars in rewards.
A list of the highest New Zealand Scholarship award winners was released yesterday, revealing Lindisfarne College student George Nelson, 18, among the top 10 performers in the national examinations.
His classmates Connor Ennis, 17, and Rahul Makam, 17, and Napier Boys' High School student Jack Roberts, 18, were also recognised as among 54 Outstanding Scholarship Award winners.
The accolades carry impressive rewards - with George receiving $30,000 over three years of tertiary study and Connor, Rahul and Jack $15,000 over the same period.
George was awarded one of 10 Premier Awards for his performance in Accounting, Media Studies, Economics, Agriculture and Horticulture and Design.
Not only did he achieve the highest accolade - an Outstanding endorsement - for Economics, Design, and Agriculture and Horticulture, but he also scored the highest mark in the country for Agriculture and Horticulture.
The success came as a surprise, he said.
"I was pretty shocked, it was probably a bit more than I expected. I was just pretty stoked that my hard work paid off big time and I'm just pretty proud of it all."
The Haumoana teen was dux of the Hastings school last year, and ascribes some of his drive to friendly competition with Connor. "I would definitely credit part of the success to that competitive thing. Even though we had totally different subjects it was cool having both of us striving to achieve as much as we could in our respective areas."
George begins a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce double degree at Victoria University this year.
Lindisfarne College rector Ken MacLeod said the students had worked hard their entire school careers to achieve the impressive results.
"There's some pretty outstanding kids out there and they work jolly hard for it," he said. "These boys are very determined and work very hard for what they have achieved and a lot of credit has to go to the boys themselves but also to the staff who work hard to help them out."
He said all three listed in the results were well rounded, participating in a number of sports and cultural activities. Special credit went to Rahul, who was only Year 12 when he completed the exams.
Napier Boys' High School headmaster Ross Brown said Jack, also last year's dux, was an impressive academic and had notable music and sporting achievements. "Jack is a particularly able young man with quite diverse interests and he has done very well," he said.
Mr Brown emphasised the extra efforts schools in Hawke's Bay put in to ensure students here get the same opportunities as those in larger centres. "The kids are of course quite capable but all of them would have had staff who have gone the extra mile to prepare them for those exams."
The Hawke's Bay Secondary Principals Association led a regional effort to prepare students for exams, he said.
"[The association] organised guest speakers from universities to come into Hawke's Bay to make sure our kids have the same opportunities that everybody else does, and that would be a feature right across the board. All the recipients have probably benefited from those initiatives."
Last year 7974 students participated in New Zealand Scholarship exams, with 2344 students achieving a scholarship. These students are scheduled to receive almost $3.7 million, towards their further study, over the next three years.
It is understood a number of students from Hawke's Bay schools achieved scholarship endorsements, but those figures are not publicly available until later in the year.