Coming first in four subjects and second equal in her fifth subject earned Taupō-nui-a-Tia College year 13 student Ashlee Stevens the title of Dux for 2020.
Rivals for the top spot were joint proxime accessits Katie Donald and Georgia Smith.
Acting deputy principal Stephen Fowler said it was a close-run contest as the three students all had excellent grades.
This year Ashlee studied digital and visual communication, photography, design, enterprise, and media studies. Those were a big change for her, having kept her career options open up to year 12 by studying more traditional subjects including maths and science. However, by the end of year 12 Ashlee had confirmed her interests and chose topics she would excel in at year 13.
"There was nothing wrong with those subjects. I just prefer the creative subjects," she said.
Outside of school, Ashlee says her interests are photography, going out on the lake in the summer, and painting at home. Next year she is heading to Massey University's Wellington campus to study a Bachelor of Creative Media Production and hopes to take up a directing or producing career in film or television.
"Ever since I was little I loved making videos and I much prefer to be behind the camera."
Ashlee said parents Kim and Mike Stevens were very proud when her name was called out for dux.
"Mum had tears in her eyes."
She said having a mother as a primary school teacher was part of her success as a learner.
"Mum lets me do my own thing and trusts that I will get on and do it. But if I need her help she is there to give me tips."
She puts her success down to a lot of hard work and great teacher influence.
"One of the things teachers said about Ashlee is that she is very good with her time management. This year her workload was mainly internal assessments and there was a huge amount of work putting together boards to be sent away," said Mr Fowler.
Helping put together the 2020 yearbook and working with teacher Kate Findley was a great inspiration.
"We just sent it away yesterday. It was so cool, it will be ready for the graduation package."
Also heading to university next year are proxime accessits Katie Donald and Georgia Smith. Katie is studying law and a BA at Victoria University and Georgia is going to Otago to study for a BSc.
Giving a huge thanks to all her teachers, Ashlee said they did an amazing job making sure learning online went so smoothly during lockdown and keeping up with Zoom calls so she could carry on with her studies.