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No Obstacle Too Big For Winners Of National Excellence Awards

On November 2, the Auckland Zoo Domes played host to a significant event, the Graeme Dingle Foundation’s Annual Excellence Awards, in support of Aotearoa’s young people. Dignitaries, business leaders, families, and students from across the country gathered to recognise the accomplishments of outstanding tamariki and rangatahi in the Foundation’s programmes.

The National Excellence Awards, now in its 23rd year, serves to recognise the impressive successes and resilience of New Zealand's young generation who, through the Foundations programmes, have overcome obstacles and achieved what they never thought possible.

Always a day to spur anticipation amongst students, thousands of rangatahi, schools, staff and volunteers have been considered for the awards across 10 categories which celebrate excellence throughout the past year. This year Auckland Zoo Domes was filled with guests from across the country gathering in support as well as well-recognised guest speakers who left the crowd with inspirational stories.

Internationally known for her achievements on the football world stage, special guest and inspirational event speaker Maia Jackman spoke of her journey, being selected over a decade ago to play for the Fifa World 11 and overcoming ‘imposter syndrome’.

“I see it as a sign of growth and wanting to be the best we can be. So don’t be afraid of it, embrace it. If we recognise it, remind ourselves of our awesomeness - quit comparing, talk it out. We might just find that self-belief and reach our goals.” said Jackman.

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Her message resonated with students in the crowd who had overcome their own obstacles and achieved goals which were recognised through the awards given out yesterday.

“Every time you level up, so will that voice in your head. But just know all of you have it in you to do great things, and that's what brought you here” she said.

Keeping the crowd on their toes, netball defence superstar Sulu Fitzpatrick also spoke with a message of support and hope for young people, sharing her personal story of overcoming struggles and becoming the successful player she is.

“One decision at a time things started to turn around. When you're in a good place with yourself you're in the best position to help others. Find your purpose and be comfortable in your skin and be yourself “said Fitzpatrick.

Leaving the crowd with her inspirational message, Fitzpatrick encouraged all in attendance to “...lead with love, be compassionate and support people to continue to grow…I'm inspired by you all and I look forward to hearing what's next on your journey” she said.

Graeme Dingle Foundation CEO Jo Malcolm-Black highlighted the significance of the event for students. “This event is extremely important for our young people. It shows them the overwhelming support networks they have across the country from their family, schools, businesspeople, and our teams which truly is something to celebrate as they’re encouraged to keep chasing their goals and pave a positive life trajectory.” she said.

“To see the overwhelming encouragement from everyone in this room for our students and our mahi has simply blown me away. I am thrilled to have met many of our students today to share in their successes and am exceptionally proud of their achievements, and the outstanding progress made by our 27,000 students across the past year” said Malcolm- Black.

This year's awards include the prestigious Sir Edmund Hillary Achievement Award which went to past student Briar Thornman, honouring outstanding commitment and continued success by the former Graeme Dingle Foundation graduate and her contribution in areas such as employment, leadership, academia, sport, art, culture, and community.

Other award categories include programme specific recognitions, celebrations of the best school involvement in the Foundation’s programmes, volunteer awards and many more.

Foundation CEO Jo Malcolm- Black invites the public to celebrate the Excellence Awards winners and become involved with the work of the Graeme Dingle Foundation by visiting

Award Winners List:

Sir Edmund Hillary Achievement Award

Briar Thorman - Auckland

Volunteer Award

Nicki Stretch - Former Board Chair, Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough

Kiwi Can - Outstanding School Award

Te Kura o Matarangi Northcote - Canterbury

Kiwi Can – Outstanding Team Leader Award

Atutahi Henare and Gemma Tidswell - Western Bay of Plenty

Stars – Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor

Sophie Ridley-Scott - Marlborough

Stars – Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor

Elijah Amituana'i - Auckland

Stars – Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor

Cade Tutehiwi - Waikato

Stars – Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor

Faafoi Faafoi Timoteo - Wellington

Career Navigator – Outstanding Achievement of a Participant

Chloe Jones - Marlborough

Career Navigator – Outstanding Achievement of a Participant

Erica Kwakye - Hawkes Bay

Career Navigator – Outstanding Achievement of a Participant

Rarua Kiriwi - Waikato

Project K – Excellence Award

Iszack Bruce - Auckland

Project K – Excellence Award

Kaitlin Lockyer - Western Bay of Plenty

Project K – Excellence Award

Lichelle Katoa Auckland

He Ara Ākonga Award

Mataturoa Puata-Biel - Western Bay of Plenty

He Ara Ākonga Award

Lineti Tu'uta - Auckland

Mitre 10 Best Community Project Award

Heretaunga Intermediate School - Hawkes Bay

Outstanding Programme Coordinator Award

Cathy Tia - Wellington

Outstanding Programme Coordinator Award

Leah Nesbit - Western Bay of Plenty

© Scoop Media

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