A gritty determination to overcome the odds has been rewarded for Greenpark School pupil Lucia McCormick.

The 11-year-old girl, whose sporting goal is to play for New Zealand's hockey Black Sticks, has received a Sir Peter Blake Young Leader Award.

The Year 6 pupil and member of the school council has not let a speech problem interfere with her enjoyment of life and determination to contribute.

''I was surprised and happy,'' Lucia said at being told she was one of the award winners.

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The spirit behind her winning the school's nomination for the Westpac-sponsored Young Leader Award seemed to run in the family.

Lucia's grandfather, Mike McCormick of Tauranga, sailed with the late yachting legend Sir Peter Blake in the Admiral's Cup.

Sir Peter believed in the potential of young Kiwis to achieve great things and the award celebrated those who showed leadership promise in their schools and communities. One pupil from every primary and intermediate in New Zealand was chosen for the award.

Lucia's mum, Karla, said her daughter had been through years of speech therapy for a condition called speech delay, which prevented her from being able to sound out the start and end of words.

At the age of 3 and a half she had no words, only gestures - although she understood everything being said.

Karla said teachers had been impressed at how Lucia handled herself and achieved goals. Rather than backing away from situations that involved speaking in front of a group, she was undaunted.

''She does not back away from putting herself forward.''

Every night Lucia practised her speech without any reminders from her mum and dad.

Karla said there were lots of responsibilities of being a student councillor. Apart from meeting every week to discuss the school and come up with ideas of what they would like to see happen, councillors hosted assemblies and reported back to classes.

''She is quite determined when she sets her mind on something.''

For instance, Lucia was trying to break the record for New Zealand's longest loom band of 600m.

Apart from her passion for hockey, Lucia also enjoyed basketball and wakeboarding, and did a bit of sailing.

Her favourite subject was maths and she said it was a thrill to be awarded the Young Leader medal and certificate in front of the whole school at the end of last term.


Qualities contributing to Sir Peter Blake Young Leader Award
• Integrity
• Determination and will to succeed
• Good team builder
• Hard working and knows how to have fun