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Thousands of Kiwi Kids Inspired To “Touch the Sky”

Thousands of Kiwi Kids Inspired To “Touch the Sky” - National Scholarship Programme -

At a time when New Zealand children are being reminded of the achievements of Sir Edmund Hillary, a scholarship developed by Sovereign aims to inspire more than 30,000 children to identify their own dreams and set realistic goals to get there.

The scholarship, called “Touch the Sky”, will be awarded to 33 students over three years with the allocation of more than $55,000 by the financial services company. Initial enquiries by Sovereign show strong commitment to the programme from principals, teachers and the Office of the Commissioner for Children. More than 100 schools, totaling more than 6000 students, have pre-registered to take part in the first year of the scholarship.

The challenge to school children in years five to 13 is to commit to their aspirations by writing a 300 word essay about what they dream of achieving. Each essay requires a plan of the initial steps the student believes are necessary to get there, and consultation with family, teachers or mentors is encouraged.

Each year the top essay wins $10,000 towards helping the winning student achieve their goal. Ten cash prizes of $1000 will be awarded to winning essays from years nine to 13, and a further five prizes of $500 to years five to eight. The scholarship is a by-product of the inzone Roadshow which is half way through its first six month tour of New Zealand schools, using high profile mentors to encourage students to believe in their own ability and dreams. Inzone founder, Peter Doake says “Touch the Sky” allows students to take the key learning from their show and apply it practically to a plan to achieve their own goals.

“The common theme in the presentations from Mark Inglis and Rob Hamill is that achieving your goals is made possible through clear planning of small steps to achieve big things. The purpose of challenging kids to write an essay is so they can form a written declaration of intent, to help them understand the things they need to focus on short term, to achieve their long term goals. This exercise will also encourage them to talk to people who can help them along the way; their teachers, parents, mentors are all critical for support and guidance. However, it’s up to them to have the vision in the first place, so we’ll be looking at that, and to see that they are planning for it in a calculated and purposeful way.”

The Commissioner for Children, Roger McClay, enthusiastically supports the scheme. He says “Sovereign’s Touch the Sky Scholarship is an initiative that encourages New Zealand youth to aim high and spend quality time to strategically plan a path to reach their goals. It is reassuring to see corporates getting behind the future of New Zealand's children and the fact that the work can be incorporated in the school curriculum, demonstrates the depth and relevance of Sovereign's scholarship programme."

One of the key benefits teachers appreciate is that the essay exercise is well suited to the school curriculum. Sharon Marsh, Principal of Alexandra Primary School in Central Otago, has committed all the school’s year five to eight students in the scheme.

“I was thrilled when Sovereign’s Touch the Sky Scholarship became available to our pupils especially considering the popularity of the inzone Roadshow that visited us in March. We have made ‘success’ the focus of this term and are looking at achievement and reaching personal goals. Being the 50th jubilee of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Everest climb brings more relevance, as our students are working both in the class rooms and with their families to decide on their dreams.

“We’re even getting local radio celebrities and our mayor to help select those that go through from our school for the scholarship. There is a real buzz around the playground as our pupils excitedly dream of what they want to achieve.”

A team of judges well-qualified to assess the essays will assemble when the entries for the scholarship close at the end of September. The panel will be made up of representatives from the Commissioner for Children, inzone, education representatives and Sovereign.

Managing Director of Sovereign, Simon Swanson, says while the scholarship is being launched this week, it’s actually been months in the planning in collaboration with inzone.

“We’ve been impressed by the impact the inzone Roadshow has had on the schools it visits. What these inspirational presenters show is that everyone needs to be reminded that it’s worthwhile to have goals because there are ways of achieving them if you stay focused.

“Individual success means fulfilment because you did it yourself. However, none of that is possible without planning how you’re going to get there. Our Touch the Sky Scholarship aims to encourage young people to share their dreams with their family, their teachers, and mentors to get the ball rolling. Through this scholarship we’re hoping to reach over 30,000 New Zealand students, to encourage them to go after what they want.”

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