Budding leaders get inspiration

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 28/05/2014

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Manawatu's aspiring sports captains, school prefects and future prime ministers turned out en masse for an inside look at leadership.

More than 1500 primary and intermediate school students attended the National Young Leaders' Day conference at The Regent on Broadway Theatre in Palmerston North.

Pupils came from around the lower North Island, including Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Bulls, Whanganui, Marton and Feilding, for the conference, which is designed to develop student leadership through inspiration and practical exercises.

Yesterday, they heard from pilot and artist Angela Swann-Cronin, who spent 12 years in the New Zealand air force.

Swann-Cronin, of Ngati Porou and Rongowhakaata descent, was the first Maori woman to earn her pilot's wings.

She was a shy teenager, but after becoming inspired to be a pilot, worked hard to go from "plain Jane to GI Jane".

"Through my own positive attitude, I thought I'm going to change that, it's my life and I can make anything of it," she said.

From the flight deck of a C130 Hercules, she had stints in Antarctica, Canada and a number of South Pacific islands.

She earned operational service medals for her efforts in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as two general service medals.

She left the air force in 2009 to focus on family. She now flies float planes for a Rotorua-based tourist aviation operator and is due to start a job with Air New Zealand later this year.

"‘The sky is the limit' couldn't be a better saying for me," she said.

"Value yourself and others, because you don't succeed by yourself - it's a team thing that you do with the help of your friends, family and colleagues.

"There were a lot of people who said I couldn't do it but I'm so pleased I ignored that stuff. It's your own attitude that is the secret to your success - develop and nourish your dreams so they turn into prized treasures."

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor, adventurer Jamie Fitzgerald, youth presenter Charlie Laumatia and cerebral palsy sufferer and entrepreneur Cam Calkoen also spoke to the pupils in between practical activities and musical performances.

Since 2001, more than 80,000 students have attended the National Young Leaders' Day, which is run in Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Rotorua.

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- Manawatu Standard

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