2018 was a big year for Rebecca Baker.

The Whanganui High School student dominated her competition running 1500m and 3000m races and placed fourth at the Australian Cross Country Championships.

Baker, 16, was also selected for the NZ under-18 women's hockey development camp, but it was an off-turf selection that really capped off the year as a success.

Baker was named head girl at the Purnell St school's end-of-year prizegiving in which Ethan Cohen was also named head boy.


"There were a lot of people who were worthy of the position and I was quite shocked when I heard my name called out," Baker said.

"Being a Year 9 and going through the years, I always looked up to the head students. Now I am one and I want to be a role model for the younger students."

Baker was born in Gisborne, but moved to Whanganui when she was about 6 and began attending Kaitoke School.

Since moving on to WHS, it has become a Baker family affair with sister Charlotte attending and mum Elaine becoming an assistant coach for developing athletes.

Athletics was a strong component in pushing Baker to take on the challenge of being a school leader.

"I was part of the school's athletics team, we have quite a big emphasis on leadership and qualities around life skills," Baker said.

"I felt really obliged to become a school leader because of that and those skills transitioned in becoming the head girl of high school."

In 2019, Baker has hit the ground running, winning the women's section of the Manawatu/Whanganui Centre Championships and growing accustomed to her new role.


Complementing her is head boy Ethan Cohen, who has regularly featured in the Chronicle for hockey as far back as 2012 when he was at Whanganui Intermediate School.

Cohen, 17, was inspired to become a school leader by his brother Jordan, who was head of sport at Whanganui High School in 2018.

"I watched what he was doing and it was quite amazing to take count of all the events that happen at school," Cohen said.

"I didn't realise how much work students put in to trying to make the school great until I became head boy. The kids run a lot of events and really put their hearts into it."

In the first four weeks of term one Cohen has been a part of organising the school's annual Valentine's Day event, house swimming sports and Thursday's athletics.

He looks forward to much future planning around movie nights, the house quiz day and charitable events such as World Vision New Zealand's 40-Hour Famine.

Cohen said he is honoured to be the head boy of Whanganui High School.

"I started off in Year 9 not being the most academic or fully involved student. Through the years I've come into my own thanks to high school.

"I'd like to show the students that any kid can strive to be what they want to be and if they have a goal, they can reach it."

Student leaders at Whanganui High School 2019:

Jack Donaldson - deputy head boy; Emelye Brown - deputy head girl; Charith De Silva – head of academia; Hunter Flanagan-Connors – head of academia; Candice Clark – head of community; Helena Hazelhurst – head of community; Abigail Martin – head of culture; Ben Power – head of culture; Victoria Webster – head of Māori; Josefa Tamaniyaga – head of Pasifika; Jericho Leiasamaivao Turvey – head of Pasifika; Ella Dudley – head of social; Jarad Knight – head of social; Teresa Davenport – head of E-Life; Jayen Gulab – Head of E- Life; Niamh Monk – head of sport; Travis Bayler – head of sport; Akie Ono - head of international; David Chen – head of international; Jessica Gear – head of Awa; Thomas Friedel – head of Awa; Zeah Brewer – head of Maunga; Alex Nevil – head of Maunga; Tegan Stoneman-Wills – head of Moana; Archie Smith – head of Moana; Arafia Khan – head of Whenua; Cameron Russell – head of Whenua