Excellence in leadership and in study

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 20/11/2012
16MANamanda-wallis19.JPG
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Amanda Wallis is Palmerston North Girls’ High School’s first head girl to win dux in more than 50 years.

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It is straight to the top of the class for a Palmerston North teenager who is the first pupil at her school in more than 50 years to be named both head girl and dux.

Palmerston North Girls' High head girl Amanda Wallis, 17, is the first pupil at the school to achieve the school's top leadership and academic honours in the same year since 1965, principal Melba Scott says.

But don't call her a bookworm - a head girl is expected to be a cheerleader for her school and Amanda has taken the notion literally - she is part of the elite cheerleading squad that placed first in the national schools' Rock 'n'Cheer competition in Auckland in June.

Amanda is still reeling from the surprise of the moment she was named dux of her school - not realising until the instant her name was called out that her grades had put her at the top of her year.

"I think if there was a reason why I achieved this year I wouldn't put it down to being hugely brainy or anything. I don't think of myself like that. I think it is just I have set high standards for myself," she says.

She is taking scholarship history and media studies among a timetable that consists of seven examinations. Then she has her eye on two prizes once again.

The young leader is enrolled to study a double degree, in Arts and Science in sociology and psychology from Victoria University.

She hasn't committed herself to any one career yet, but her year in a leadership position has cemented an interest in working with people.

Amanda participated in the New Zealand United Nations conference this year, and represented World Vision, giving her insight into how developmental organisations work.

She also committed herself to charity work throughout the year, participating in the CanTeen Bandanna Challenge, working with commercial radio station The Edge to bring popular Kiwi boy band Titanium to the school, fundraising with a mufti day to send $1700 in proceeds to the child cancer victims' charity.

With lots of commitments, Amanda says she feels lucky to have maintained a close-knit circle of friends, despite warning them at the beginning of this year that she was likely to be swamped with head girl duties.

"I guess it is a lot about balance. It would have been easier for me to fall into a pattern of holing up in my room and just driving myself slowly crazy doing lots of work but I've strived to still have fun and be a teenager.

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"I guess what helped me in the end was keeping that balance in my life, but also remaining organised - which everyone makes fun of me for, because I'm that crazy organisation girl that keeps everything in my diary and plans every aspect of my life."

Mum Jo Wallis says she is proud of her daughter who required little cajoling to put her pom-poms down and study.

"The girls look up to her; it's not like she is above them," she said. "She is very organised. The day will be planned out."

If the outgoing head girl has any advice for younger pupils, it is to be careful not to sell themselves short.

"Not letting yourself slide, not saying to yourself, ‘Oh, this assignment doesn't really matter; I'll just get a bad mark on it', because when you start to make concessions like that up it doesn't contribute to your end results."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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