Student wins three-year Cambridge scholarship

23:36, Apr 03 2014

A Horowhenua teen determined to help change the world has been given a serious leg up towards his goal.

Former Horowhenua College pupil Shem Harris is the 2014 recipient of the Sir Douglas Myers scholarship, worth $100,000.

The scholarship will cover his fees and living costs to attend Cambridge University in England for three years to study engineering. He hopes to later study law as well.

"When you look at some of the biggest issues like climate change, sustainability and global warming, many of them can be influenced and changed by engineering and many depend on decisions being made at a legislative level," he said.

"I want to have a two-fold influence on some of these issues: To deal with it on a hands-on practical level to help people, and then move on to the political and legislative level; and to influence it on the global stage."

Harris is in his first semester studying engineering at Auckland University, awaiting the start of his first Cambridge term on October 1, and says he is enjoying the opportunity to delve into a fascinating topic.


He also hopes to find opportunities to gain engineering experience by doing work on projects in developing countries.

The scholarship selection process was a "rigorous" series of events, Harris said, including a debate, a lengthy interview and a dinner with the selectors.

All the other entrants were from well known city schools, like King's College, and he said coming from Levin gave him a different perspective.

"Coming from a small area hasn't stopped me, it's given me quite a broad view and understanding of the diversity in New Zealand - a lot of them felt that inequality wasn't such a big thing.

"There's a lot of people out there in Levin that have put in numerous hours and a lot of support to me and I really appreciate it, and I hope to keep in contact with them."

The scholarship is traditionally awarded to a student who has shown outstanding academic success, but Harris said he understood the selectors were also looking for an "all rounder".

Harris was dux at Horowhenua College in 2013, and top scholar in his year for four years running.

He earned five NCEA scholarships, in physics, chemistry, English, statistics and geography.

He has played football and futsal at national youth level, and lawn bowls, basketball, squash and table tennis at an interschool level, and coached an under-15 football team, as well as refereed.

He was also a prefect, a member of the Horowhenua Youth Council, and has played tenor horn and cornet for the Levin Centennial Band.

"I'm quite self motivated and driven.

"I just enjoy a lot of things and whatever I do I set myself the goal of being the best that I can do," he said.

"And it's a great way to make a lot of friends and meet people." Fairfax NZ

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