Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave Stratford High School students a wonderful surprise today, arriving at their senior prizegiving in time to hand out a special award.
The Prime Minister, who was in Taranaki today making a series of announcements regarding Taranaki and the energy sector, arrived at the school just after 2pm.
While her visit was a surprise for the students, it came with a special purpose - to personally present Year 13 student Simon Clegg with the Prime Minister's Vocational Excellence Award.
The award, which was introduced nationally last year, aims to raise the status of vocational study and recognise the achievements of students excelling in vocational education. Worth $2000 in prize money, the award is presented to a student who has demonstrated excellence in their vocational studies.
The Prime Minister also presented the awards for the 2020 Dux, which went to Henry Armond, and the 2020 Proxime Accessit which went to Samantha Perrett.
Speaking to the students, the Prime Minister told them she wished them well in their futures and said she was aware of the pressures they face.
"At this fork in the road you might feel under pressure to know what you are going to do for the next 20 years."
If she had to pick what she would have been doing when she left high school she said, she wouldn't have guessed at getting to where she was today.
Her mother would have wanted her to become a personal assistant, like a cousin of hers had, said the PM, "and my father would have wanted me to do anything but an arts degree".
"Don't limit yourself. The only reason I am doing what I am now is because I have kept saying yes, even when it terrified me."
The PM was joined by new Labour List MP, Angela Roberts, who was a teacher at the school prior to her recent election. Ms Roberts, who was 50th on the party list, stood for the Taranaki-King Country against incumbent Barbara Kuriger. While Ms Roberts did not win the electorate vote, her ranking on the party list meant she still secured her seat in Parliament.
The fact Ms Roberts was leaving the school as a result was raised by principal Cameron Stone as he welcomed the PM to the school.
"I have one bone to pick though, Angela Roberts has been at the school for 19 years, and is an excellent teacher," he said, referring to the fact she was now headed to Wellington.
The PM responded by saying she was well aware of the love Ms Roberts had for the school.
"Even before I arrived today I was fully briefed on what I would see, the artwork in the entrance by the students. We are very grateful to have Angela as an MP and your loss is really New Zealand's gain. So even though we didn't give you a choice, thank you."