Being chosen as a prefect was a big deal back in the day when we went to school, not that any of my mates or I even came close, other than driving one - without a warrant.

And as for head prefect, that sat up there alongside God or the Prime Minister, and just below being chosen to wear the silver fern.

I remember my sister came close, real close, to being the first in our family to wear the prefect's badge of honour, only to have to the title taken from her when she was called into the office of our headmaster and given the sad news that a new family had moved into town and, as the father was the new principal of the Mount College, he would have to re-award the prefect's badge to the new principal's daughter.

However, as a concession my sister, Carol, was given the prestigious honour of being in charge of the sick bay - but sadly no badge came with the title.


Oh, how close she came to wearing one of those flash, finely embossed prefect badges.

The other tertiary title without a badge back then was that of dux and from memory they usually went to the "nerdy" - four eyes, as we called them, and we never seemed to mix with them. Maybe because they hung out in libraries or volunteered for any lunchtime duty that kept them as far away as possible from the Kingaseeny paddock down in the hollow at Omanu School, and later on at Mount College.

I can only remember one dux from schoolyard days but many of the head prefects left an impression. Andrea Veran and the name Wendy Cunningham still ring a bell as head prefects at Omanu School. Not only were Andrea and Wendy very clever but, while Wendy was a springboard when it came to high jump and a seal when it came to swimming, Andrea was a pocket rocket and navigated the netball court with an inbuilt radar that seemed to know where the ball was going long before it had left the hands of the opposition.

This vault of memory recall is further confirmation that head prefects, especially the good-looking girl ones, were far more memorable than duxes.

Duxes kind of went hand-in-hand with each other and in our circle of schoolees didn't carry much mana, unlike head prefects who had the stamp of tautoko and respect all over their medal-studded blazers.

Here in the Bay, which has plenty of sporting heroes to celebrate and pin medals on, we seem to shy away from celebrating the academic successes of our tertiary institutions - at all levels.

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Perhaps it is time to run the profiles of our head prefects through the local media - and get a first-hand insight into the thinking of tomorrow's leaders?

Not just a likes and dislikes vox pop interview, but a decent read, with relevant questions and answers about today's challenges faced by our youth - and their perceived solutions, through free-thinking lenses that have not been clouded by the big bad world they will face when the badge and blazer have long been decommissioned.

Having access to this level of success at this age is a bit like getting the inside "bully" on a sporting or business leader of tomorrow and about as close as you can get to a sure thing, given how difficult it is to be chosen as either head girl or head boy.

Making dux or head prefect is a tough gig and not many get to crack it. In some ways for me head boys and head girls of a college have more than one arrow to their academic quiver, unlike duxes who are just hard out brain boxes, as we used to call them back in the day.

It has taken over half a century for my sister's sick bay monitor title to be avenged and there was no one happier than her when our niece Eloise Hera Wilson was named head girl of Bethlehem College recently.

I remember when I first taught creative reading and writing classes at Bethlehem College a dozen years ago, it was pretty barren when it came to cultural coolness and first fifteen fame.

But times have changed at Bethee and cultural coolness has been normalised, embraced and celebrated by the diverse range of ethnicities attending what many in the education industry are calling the most successful school in the country.

Academic successes of all ethnicities should, in my opinion, be no longer silenced in favour of our very vocal appreciation of sporting stars.

Head prefects such as my French/Maori/English niece are worthy of much more recognition than the medal they wear on their blazer.

Tres bien et tumeke, Eloise.

- Tommy Wilson is a best-selling Tauranga author