Madison takes flight to lift leadership skills

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 16/01/2014

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Girl power is taking on a new meaning for a Palmerston North student this week.

Palmerston North Girls' High School head girl Madison Burgess-Smith, 16, flew to Australia yesterday for the Alliance of Girls Schools' Student Leadership Conference at Bond University on the Gold Coast.

Madison is one of about a dozen New Zealand students picked for the all-girl leadership conference - which sees 160 students from Australia, Hong Kong and the Philippines talk about young women in power positions. The students selected are all school leaders about to begin their final year of secondary school.

Madison said she was looking forward to rubbing shoulders with those taking on roles like hers.

"It'll be good to share your ideas of leadership with others who will be put in a similar situation this year," she said.

"A lot of it comes down to how you believe girls should be led, because it's a whole lot different to just general leadership.

"For me, it's about the empowerment of young women and realising you can do so much more than what's previously been done and understanding that you can go places if you set your mind to it."

The conference had been designed especially for young female leaders and was aimed at helping girls tackle problems they may face during their "leadership journey", Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia president Judith Poole said.

"Each year as the girls return to their schools, they claim that they have had a life-changing experience."

The five-day conference features guest speakers, discussions on the development and awareness of women in leadership roles and a range of hands-on experiences, like an Amazing Race-style challenge to Surfers Paradise and a Donald Trump-themed apprentice task.

For Madison, the first thing to overcome is travelling overseas by herself.

"It's the first time away without my parents and that's where the nerve-racking part comes in," she said.

"We're just a close family, but I'm looking forward to it."

Madison is taking media studies, physical education studies, English, graphics and economics this year.

Her aim is to study law and political science next year, with aspirations of working in the courtroom one day.

"It's something more women need to aspire to," she said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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