Olympic gold medallist Barbara Kendall urged the young women of Hawke's Bay to have the confidence to use their voices for good in a world of negative people, or "Donalds".
The five-time Olympic boardsailor imparted her success story on Woodford House students in the school's new Shine Strengths masterclass on Friday.
Kendall said the young women must remember to have self-belief in life and that the truth will always prevail above the "Donalds" of the world.
"The biggest thing that has been said about women in leadership roles is confidence and self-esteem. Being able to speak up about what you believe in and speaking clearly, speaking precisely," she said.
Woodford House principal and Shine Strengths founder Julie Peterson said she started the programme to reinstate young women's innate qualities that seem to diminish as they grow older.
"I had a vision 18 months ago to connect girls with the innate strengths they had when they were little, confidence, enthusiasm, joy, resilience, perseverance and then somehow it diminishes and they lose that over time," she said.
"We're doing this through narrative mentoring, the power of telling a story."
Peterson added: "We're giving them the chance to hear amazing women talk about their journey, their stories and about how they have developed and used these strengths."
The programme now has more than 100 mentors involved to help give students an edge as they move on from school education.
Other mentors include musician Amanda Palmer, author Catherine Robertson and lawyer Mihi Sorensen.
Year 12 student Noreen Mnyanyi said the Shine Strengths programme has already helped to empower her and other students to be more proactive in their lives.
"With Shine and workshops like this it empowers us to take action, to find our own passions outside in other fields, even those that aren't related to the academics, and really push forward finding inspiration in other women," she said.
Peterson said the plan is to branch out to more schools once the programme is fully established at Woodford House.
Kendall also attended the school's Sports Award Breakfast as guest speaker.
Beauty entrepreneur and Thin Lizzy co-founder Wendy Nowell-Usticke also spoke in the masterclass centred on collaboration.