Bright Young Things
Sibling rivalry is often considered a bad thing, but these sisters have made it about encouragement and bonding that is not only touching to see but has resulted in exceptional academic standards. Emma Horsley talks to two young women who treat excellence as a daily achievement.
It's never been done before: two sisters in two years, achieving dux status at Freyberg High School.
Lise Bakker has just been awarded dux at the age of 17. She is a year ahead of other students and so is about to embark on a gap year.
Last year Stasha Bakker also attained the highest academic achievement of the school and has been studying conjoint science and art degrees at Massey this year.
"It's good because you have to do 10 extra papers, which means a bit more work but you come out with a BA and a BSc. Plus there's an incredible amount of choice in the papers."
For most people, 10 extra papers would turn them to jelly but at 18, Stasha is a self-described "random facts repository" and needs a daily fix of new information.
"If I don't get that daily, then it's not a good day."
She is proud of her younger sister's achievements, remarking that it should not be possible for someone to achieve dux and be awarded the school's service prize too.
"She is incredibly busy. She also got 57 out of 57 excellence credits internally. No-one does that, it's incredible."
Lise is gracious following her sister's praise.
"Last year when Stash got dux I was running around saying 'I'm so proud of you'. She's done the same thing this year."
It's scary to start listing these girls' high school achievements in case you miss one, but let's give it a go and start with Lise.
Four distinctions in English, classics, drama and biology, service to Ruahine House, the Salamander trophy for all-round excellence and two dux cups.
Stasha's haul was five distinctions in calculus, statistics, physics, chemistry and classics and of course dux. They both got Freyberg scholar.
Each girl chimes in when the other forgets something and the areas they cover show that Mum and Dad probably spent a lot of time in the car.
Stasha plays flute and ukulele and is part of a medieval recreation club. Lise plays oboe at grade 8 level. There are also Lise's other extra-curricular activities, including, but not limited to, robotics, concert band, youth symphonia, library, drama, a bit of creative writing for relaxation: the list goes on.
"I don't know how she fits it all in," says Stasha, who herself decided to take on the task of writing a 50,000-word novel. In a month. For fun. During exams.
It was all part of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in November.
Stasha sees her future in academia and has her eyes fixed on a PhD. Lise is about to start a gap year but will head to Poland with Lattitude Global Volunteering in September for five months. In the meantime, Lise intends to work at Burger King and in 2013 will study speech and language pathology at Canterbury. She is already qualified to teach speech and drama through Speech NZ.
When asked what drives her, each sister has a very different answer. For Stasha, it's learning facts and being inspired through new knowledge. Lise pauses a while before answering.
"The trauma of both parents' disappointment," she says with a deadpan face before collapsing into laughter.
"Seriously? I'd be disappointed in myself if I didn't do my best."
- © Fairfax NZ News