Celebrating the bright side of being a teen

Teenagers have been in the news for awful reasons this week.

The group of Auckland youths, aged 17 and 18, who allegedly had group sex with drunk teenage girls and then bragged about it online has sparked a national furore, including questions about youth culture.

But another group of teenagers has also been making headlines in the Nelson Mail this week for the right reasons.

They are the hundreds of young people who have been rewarded for their efforts throughout the year at school prizegivings across the region.

They have put their heads down to excel in a diverse range of academic subjects, and in areas such as music, sport and drama.

The school duxes interviewed after their awards have come across as grounded and balanced, neither self-obsessed nor overconfident.

They also remembered to give thanks to all those who have helped them achieve success, including their family, teachers and friends.

Nelson College dux Oliver Coleman gave credit to his mother for "doing heaps"; Nayland College's Palmer Award winner for all-round achievement Patrick Savill left the stage at the end of his speech to hug his parents.

Waimea College dux Jonathan Everts told how his parents "let him off the dishes" most nights he was studying.

Nelson College for Girls dux Kate Fraser put down her success to her grandparents, parents, teachers and friends.

In turn, her sister Meg gave a little insight into her dedication with a story about bumping into Kate studying at 3am. Others admit to studying in the morning before school, but all express a love of learning that is also a credit to their schools.

Another common theme is sadness at leaving their tight-knit school communities, mixed with excitement at taking the next step, or as Patrick Savill describes it, like being on the edge of a "good void".

There is sadness for the region, too, that all these talented young people are heading for universities in Auckland, Wellington and Otago, studying to be accountants, doctors, computer engineers and anthropologists.

Perhaps that is an inevitable part of being a small centre.

The growth of specialist courses here, such as the diploma in aquaculture at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, is promising but we could always do with more.

There is also the hope that their links here might bring them back at some stage.

In any case, they are showing that teenagers cannot be judged by the actions of a few who show a frightening disregard for others.

There are many who have the qualities their parents and the wider community can be proud of.

The Nelson Mail