By Jill Nicholas
Irihapeti (Iri) Edwards was conceived when her mum was 14, she was raised by her great grandmother, she's been a recent youth ambassador to Colombia.
If all that has a familiar ring to it it's because it's exactly what appeared on this page when Our People profiled Iri's mum, ace poker player Renae Baker, a month ago.
It was this glimpse Renae gave us into the life of Iri, now 20, that fired our need to know more, much more, about this uber impressive high achiever.
Already there's an update.
A fortnight ago she was named a Prime Minister's 2019 Youth Award winner, The citation accompanying the leadership award describes her as "a champion of global citizenship and youth participation."
Impressive as that is Iri's touchingly modest, frequently telling Our People it's an honour to be interviewed by us. We assure her the honour's ours, that we are fair bursting with pride to be talking to her, that's because we are. Iri's one of a rare species, the sort whose early years beg to be recorded as a prelude to a brilliant future.
But back to business: As well as her youth ambassadorship to Colombia (another Prime Ministerial initiative), she's spent time in Asia as the youngest member of a United Nations youth globalisation tour. Last year she featured in the young leader category of the New Zealand Women of Influence awards.
Iri's next goal's enrolment at one of America's Ivy League universities, she's studying for the staggeringly tough SAT entry exams. Harvard's her preference.
"I want to put myself in a position to learn from the best in the world." Her post graduation aim's to join the diplomatic corp "because I love other cultures and international relations."
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If that doesn't pan out choice number two is to become an international corporate consultant.
That's already work in progress - right here in Rotorua where she's a share registry consultant with global accounting corporate Deloitte. It was local Deloitte executives who spotted her potential to go places fast when she joined them in 2016. She'd taken a shot at law at Victoria University but, after one semester, knew it wasn't for her.
Deloitte has embraced her as a member of its Bright Start commerce career programme which recognises talented young recruits by employing them through university study.
All this is many million kilometres away from what, with the best will in the world, can only be described as Iri's humble beginnings.
From the time of her birth she was raised by her great nan, Catherine Baker, spending her first two years in Auckland, Whangarei followed. For her, growing up with an older mother was a bonus.
"I called her Mum but my birth mother was always in my life, having two mums gives you different strengths. I think you mature a lot faster if you are brought up by someone with a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. My older mum always encouraged me to read books, I think that's what started my curiosity for life, my passion for learning. My younger mum understands things like youth culture, music, R&B's our shared passion."
From her intermediate years Iri took on leadership roles. At 16 she was chosen to be a Young Marist Neighbour, experiencing life in deprived rural communities, Iri went to Ruatoria.
"It was confrontational, I'd never been in an environment like that but it was one of the most influential moments of my life. I'd grown up away form my Māori culture, we visited Sir Apirana Ngata's marae and learned what an amazing leader he was. That was the catalyst for my identity as Māori, to learn about my culture, language, whakapapa. I'd never been to a marae before, I came home [Rotorua] and asked my granddad, Kani Edwards, to take me to our whānau marae at Murupara. I was finally proud to be Māori."
Since then she's taught herself basic te reo and entered three Ngā Manu Kōrero speech competitions delivering in te reo and English. One topic, Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it, is the very essence of Iri. "I never won but now it's become very important to me to become fluent in my own language."
She's also acquired Spanish – essential in Colombia where English isn't spoken. Assigned to innovations' company Interactpedia Iri's home base was Medellin, once regarded as one of the world's most unsafe cities but now heralded by Time Magazine as Central America's innovations hub.
"It was a sink or swim situation, I was completely out of my comfort zone, before I went there'd be lock downs because the [drug] cartels were running around with guns, frequent bombings, friends lost their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles to the cartels. When I arrived things had quietened down but there were still armed guards, although I'd never seen guns before I never felt unsafe, people were incredibly kind."
During Iri's stay, university students were striking and protesting against government budget cuts.
"There was tear gas, rubber bullets being fired, it's where I learnt New Zealand has a lot of privileges the rest of the world doesn't."
Within three days of her homecoming she was off again, heading for Asia as a member of a UN Youth Globalisation delegation.
The 72 hours before her departure turned into a nightmare acquiring her China entry visa. "It was very stressful, I couldn't apply while I was in Columbia, it arrived in the nick of time."
The UN visit incorporated Singapore, India, Tokyo, Jakarta and Ho Chi Min City with an overnighter to China as a guest at the Prime Minister's Scholarship to Asia dinner in Shenzhen.
Asia brought Iri insight into where the world's heading.
"It's definitely the region to watch in the sense that it takes up 60 per cent of the world's population, China is Asia's super power, people need to become accustomed to Asian culture and languages because that's where the future is. In preparation I'm working on my Mandarin."
Sage predictions and advice from this youthful shooting star.
It hasn't escaped her that Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, who hosted the youth award winners, and Prime Minister Jacinda Adern had their early schooling in Minginui and Murupara respectively.
"They've both become incredible leaders who take their responsibilities seriously yet manage to be warm and caring, fingers crossed that as a small town girl I'll be like them one day."
What will Iri's report card read a decade on, Prime Minister perhaps? "I'd love to be in that position, at least a ministerial one, but there's a lot of groundwork to cover first."
IRIHAPETI (IRI) EDWARDS:
Born: Rotorua, 1988
Education: St Francis Xavier Primary, Pompallier College, Whangarei. Victoria, Auckland Universities
Family: "My two mothers, grand parents, sister, brother."
Iwi affiliations: Ngāti Manawa, Ngapuhi, Ngāti Whataua. Ngāti Awa, Te Arawa
Interests: Education, international relations, sustainability, global business, climate change, cultural conservation, languages
On being daughter of headline-making poker player: "It's ironic, I can't play poker at all."
On her life: "I'm not just a child of the system, I'm a child of change."
Personal philosophy: "Sir Apriana Ngata's 'use the treasures of your ancestors to guide your pathway through life'."