Top students celebrated

11:27, Nov 09 2012
Nayland winners
THE BEST: Ashleigh Rae, W C Kane dux, Marley Richards, centre, and Zaimon Sansom, joint winners of the Palmer Award for all round excellence, Nayland College’s top prize, at the college prizegiving.

The academic and cultural achievements of this year's top three graduating students at Nayland College could fill more than a few pages of a school exercise book.

Ashleigh Rae was awarded the W C Kane Scholarship at the school's prizegiving yesterday, which is the dux award, and Marley Richards and Zaimon Sansom were jointly awarded the college's top prize - the Palmer Award for all round excellence.

Nayland College principal Rex Smith said Ashleigh, 18, was "highly intelligent and extremely motivated".

Mr Smith said she had received the principal's award for academic achievement every year, since starting at Nayland College in 2008.

Ashleigh was first equal in biology and French this year, first in chemistry and English and received prizes for excellence in science and English.

She was a peer mediator, a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor and a house captain.


Ashleigh is heading to the University of Canterbury next year, where she received a dux scholarship, to study engineering.

She said she was "pretty excited" to find out she was dux yesterday, because she had admired the school's dux winners since year 9.

Both Marley, 17, and Zaimon, 18, knew they had won the Palmer Award before yesterday, and Zaimon said it had been a hard secret to keep.

"I had to lie to a lot of people; some people were a lot harder than others."

Mr Smith said Marley was a "multitalented young man" and an "outstanding role model", with a passion for music, drama, performance, film and writing.

His musical talents included vocals, guitar and composition. He had composed more than 30 pieces since 2009, and played principal roles in three college productions.

Marley was a regional Smokefreerockquest finalist for three years, had competed in theatre sports at a regional and national level, and directed pieces for the regional SGCNZ University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival.

He was a member of the student council for four years, a student representative on the board of trustees and a peer mediator. He was first equal in drama and first in music this year.

Marley is heading to the University of Otago to study toward a bachelor of music next year, and said "being a famous musician would be good".

Mr Smith said Zaimon was "diligent and intelligent", and had excelled in his academic performance. He was first in physics this year, and received the New Zealand Institute of Physics Prize.

Zaimon was also a talented sportsman, this year representing Nayland in cricket, volleyball, football and athletics.

He was an excellent student leader, a reliable member of the board committee, a member of the student council, a member of the sports council and a peer mediator.

Zaimon is heading to the University of Canterbury next year to study engineering, and said he had enjoyed his time at Nayland.

"There are a lot of opportunities at Nayland, so I kind of just went for everything this year," he said.

Zaimon said he arrived at Nayland as a chubby and unconfident year 9 student, unaware "that school had other ideas for me".

He said it was an honour to receive the Palmer Award, as he had looked up to others who had earned it in the past.

Cook shares life rules with students

New Zealand-based singer songwriter Aly Cook has followed six rules in her life, and has urged Nayland College students to do the same.

Cook, who was a Nayland College student 32 years ago, was the guest speaker at the school's senior prizegiving yesterday.

She was named New Zealand Female Country Artist of the Year at the National Country Music Awards earlier this year, and has performed at festivals around the world. Her latest single, Country Storm, is climbing the Australian top 30 country tracks chart and her previous hit, Midnight Sun, reached No 12.

Cook encouraged the students to "dedicate every breath in your body" to achieving their goals.

"If you feel you have something to give, if you feel that your particular talent is worth developing and worth caring for, then there is nothing you can't achieve," she said.

She gave them six rules to live by: trust yourself, break some rules, don't be afraid to fail, don't listen to naysayers, work your butt off and give back.

Cook said breaking the rules - "not the law" - meant thinking outside the box, and not trying to please everyone.

"Even this college broke the rules. It was one of the first in the country in fact to go without uniforms for its senior students, which in my day was a very big thing," she said.

"We have so many rules for everything. It's impossible to be a true maverick or truly original and successful if you're too well behaved."

Cook also said if "you want to win, there's no way around hard work". And "reaching out and helping people will give you more satisfaction in life".

"You have to dig down and ask yourself who you want to be. Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks."