Our People: An inspirational teen

By Jill Nicholas

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Loren Skudder-Hill with her dog Pippi. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
Loren Skudder-Hill with her dog Pippi. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Life's trajectory's propelled teenage humanitarian, academic from Nepal to UN - next touch down Cambridge University

Want to meet an inspirational young person? Then allow us to introduce Loren Skudder-Hill.

At 17 and technically still at school, she's CEO of the business she co-founded, has spoken at the United Nations general assembly in New York, volunteered in Nepal and won an international Diana award for her commitment to helping others.

That's just a taster of Loren's organisational involvement (see factbox).

After 100 per cent passes in every subject in America's SAT exams, the equivalent of University Entrance, she's off next month to Cambridge University where she plans to piggy-back law and medicine, specialising in neurology.

Loren's SAT success gave her the pick of America's Ivy League universities. Tossing up between Harvard and Cambridge the latter won out, study will be based on its London campus.

She sat the tough US exams independently, not via John Paul College which she's attended since her intermediate years.

Loren's a Year 13 student but, by her admission, isn't its most reliable participant.

"I don't think I'm their favourite student because I take so much time off for my other commitments."

She only returned this year to finish her NCEA level 3 papers, complete speech and drama assignments "and tie up a few loose strings before I go to Cambridge".

With her entry guaranteed, does she really have to sit the maths and English papers after netting high pass marks in biology, chemistry and physics last year?

To leave without all her intended subjects would, in her mind, be unfinished business and this is a teenager committed to completing all she sets out to achieve.

Loren's genetically programmed to excel academically.

Her father, Andrew Hill, is an oncologist operating a medical research business on both sides of the Tasman, her mother, Leeanne Skudder, is a nurse who retrained as a teacher and is now involved in hearing therapy.

Our People's introduction to Loren came from her close friend Te Rina West (Our People, June 18). If ever there was a classic case of chalk and cheese personalities these two are it or, as Loren puts it, "opposites attract".

Both are articulate adolescents but there the comparison ends. While Te Rina's outgoing and a rapid-fire conversationalist, Loren's reserved and not one to use two words where one will do. Regardless, she's delightful company.

While there are those who'd quail at remarking on the lack of maturity she's found in many her own age she's realistically frank.

"I think when you have the experiences I've had outside school and you work with people where I was the youngest by far it's hard to go back to an environment where people the same age as you do seem young and inexperienced."

That's not arrogance speaking, it's reality from a young woman who's spent so much time living outside the teenage mainstream.

She candidly admits some teachers haven't found it easy to relate to her. We interpret that as this is a student whose intellect is more acute than they're accustomed to in the classroom.

Cherry picking from her index of achievements we turn first to Ukuda, the not-for-profit company she leads as CEO. Recently rebranded from Advocate Youth, the name's derived from Zulu; Loren tells us it has no specific meaning but its objectives couldn't be more meaningful. They're to inspire current and future thinkers and has 53 ambassadors nationwide.

"We are a youth consultancy business, have done a lot of work for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the youth ministry, organisations like the UN Association of New Zealand and various NGOs [Non Government Organisations]."

We move to her time as a 15-year-old in Nepal, initially in Kathmandu under the auspices of Projects Abroad then as a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders.

"I found it all very rewarding, we were setting up clinics, vaccination posts on the sides of roads, inoculating children to ensure they wouldn't pick up infectious diseases. I'm really tempted to go back, I love that country; in a place like Nepal it's really hard to classify people, everyone's suffering in some way. In New Zealand they'd be the poorest of the poor, but in Nepal it's terribly hard to identify the most needy."

Jumping continents we take her to her time in New York last September and October,
Loren didn't apply for her United Nations speaking assignment, she was invited following New Zealand's admission to the Security Council. Her topic: What young people can do to improve health systems globally and be involved in the decision-making process.

Wasn't it terrifying to speak to such an eminent organisation?

"I have a brilliant speech and drama teacher in Gabrielle Thurston who's taught me so much about delivery, presentation. I was only speaking to a couple of hundred diplomats, it would have been different if they were people I knew."

The Diana award came on home turf. Established in memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales it acknowledges her belief that the power to change the world for the better lies with young people.

Loren was nominated by Deb Bell (Our People, June 1, 2013), district chairwoman of Rotary's Rotaract and Interact organisations. Loren's an active Interact member.

Away from life's more serious side she's a keen yachtswoman and skier.

"I used to sail a Starling on the lake [Rotorua] but I'm a bit heavy for it now, I'd like to get back into it but I guess that won't be possible at Cambridge."

In earlier years she played hockey, badminton and softball "but they became not as important to me as the things I'm investing my time in now".

Hold a mirror in front of Loren and is it a brain box do-gooder she sees looking back at her?

"What I see is a pretty realistic, independent person, someone who likes to think they can help make a difference."

LOREN SKUDDER-HILL
Born: London, 1998.
Education: Lynmore Primary, John Paul College.
Family: Parents Andrew Hill and Leeanne Skudder, two younger sisters.
Interests: Politics, the world, humanitarian work, research, medical research, running for stress relief, plays clarinet and piano, skiing.
Present commitments: CEO Ukuda, president Rotorua Junior Chamber of Commerce, Interact, Ambassador for UN women, member Global Volunteer Network, Amnesty International, Red Cross, Inspiring Stories Trust, medical research.
On growing up in Rotorua: "It's been really good being in a community where you get to know most people and have good connections with them."
Personal philosophy: "Live a life of value rather than success."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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