Sixteen-year-old Te Manawa Twomey-Waitai was walking tall and proud knowing he was the first student at Wanganui City College in 12 years to be awarded a New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) Scholarship.
Yesterday he learned he was one of an elite 3 per cent of college students throughout New Zealand to gain the accolade.
His scholarship in Te Reo Maori means he is one of just 18 students nationwide to have gained the high marks needed from a written exam he sat last year. Principal Peter Kaua said it was the highest academic honour for a college student. "We're very, very proud."
Over the past two years, Te Manawa has also been named junior and senior Maori Speaker of the Year in the North Island.
Yesterday Te Manawa told the Chronicle he just couldn't believe it when Mr Kaua called him over, told him to sit down, then told him he'd won the scholarship.
"You know, I thought he was about to tell me off ... well, he was acting very serious and really had me fooled, you know. I really thought I'd done something terrible."
His dad and City College sports master Renata Waitai said Te Manawa could speak Maori before he even went to kohanga.
He and his partner were studying Te Reo Maori at Wanganui Polytech when Te Manawa was a baby and used take the little boy to all their classes. "So he grew up learning Maori."
Te Manawa hopes to study for a degree in Sports and Exercise at Waikato University next year. "I really want to be a PE teacher. I love sports."
He plays badminton, volleyball and ki o rahi for Wanganui.
The money from the scholarship will help towards his university fees, he said.