Bayley Mihaka has filled some big shoes and he has the plaque to prove it.
The Whanganui City College head boy brought home the regional Pei Te Hurinui Jones Manu Korero trophy for the second year running and says he is upholding a legacy for his friend Eruera (Eru) Heitia-Ponga.
Former head boy Eru was regional Manu Korero winner in 2014 and was a mentor to Bayley when he came to live in Whanganui two years ago.
When Eru died suddenly in November 2014, his community and school deeply mourned the loss of their much-loved young leader and Bayley says he likes to think he has Eru's blessing for the national Manu Korero final in September.
Growing up in the Bay of Islands, Bayley learned about his Nga Puhi heritage from his grandfather, Hone Mihaka, and helped his koro with his tourism business Taiamai Tours.
Now Bayley lives in Whanganui with his Nga Wairiki/Ngati Apa grandmother Tania Kara who says Bayley's early immersion in his language and culture has given him great confidence as an orator.
"His grandfather's business gives tourists an authentic experience - they learn about the history and culture while paddling in a waka on the Waitangi River.
"Bayley went on a promotion tour to the Netherlands with his grandfather and that was a great experience for him," said Mrs Kara.
For Bayley, coming to Whanganui and fitting in to a new school and community has helped him define his own personality he says.
"I was interested in the military academy because I have always liked the idea of joining the navy.
"I would also like to perhaps be a presenter on Maori TV but I like to focus on today, forget about yesterday and try not to worry about tomorrow."
While Bayley was top in the region for te reo Manu Korero, Cullinane College's Macy Duxfield won the Korimako (senior English) regional prize and will join Bayley in representing Whanganui at the national contest to be held in Whakatane in September.
Asked if he has any advice for learners of Maori language as the national week begins, Bayley says he can not remember learning te reo after speaking the language all his life.
"What I would say to anybody wanting to learn is - treat it like any job you want to be good at and just keep at it."