Already making a name for herself academically at Victoria University, Jessica Sutton looks back fondly at her time at St Peter’s.
Jessica was awarded Dux of the school in her final year, also gaining four NZQA scholarships, the Kane O’Donnell Trophy for academic excellence in the external examinations and the Waipa Youth Academic Excellence Award.
“I was also the regional champion of the Alliance Française speech competition, and reached my goal of 43 out of 45 points in the International Baccalaureate programme, for which I was recognised by the Governor General,” she recalls.
Jessica began Year 8 at St Peter’s in 2009 and, she says, “fell in love with the school immediately.” It didn’t take long for her to sign up to a range of cultural activities while still aiming for academic excellence. The performing arts were a real strength. “I performed vocally, gained lead roles in St Peter’s productions such as Cats, and earned modules of my Teaching Diploma in Speech and Drama with distinction.
“I was also involved in community work including the Relay for Life challenge and volunteering at Riding for the Disabled in Cambridge.”
In Year 12, Jessica went down the International Baccalaureate pathway for her final two years. “I chose to study IB for the academic challenge, and had particular interest in biology, English, French and history.”
Jessica set herself the highest of academic goals while at St Peter’s and continues to do so today. “I am currently studying at Victoria University of Wellington under the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Scholarship, and absolutely adore my conjoint degree programme in Law, French and Spanish. I have recently been awarded the French Government Prize for Excellence in French 202, the Graduate Women in Wellington second year scholarship, and have been included on the Dean’s List for excellence for both the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Humanities.”
Jessica’s passion for the performing arts and desire for community involvement also continue. She is the founding president of singing group Acapella on Campus and is involved with mentoring younger law students as a leader with the university’s Peer Assisted Study Support programme.
Having declared her intention to attend either Oxford or Cambridge University in the UK for postgraduate study, Jessica looks back on St Peter’s “with a lot of happiness.”
“I base much of my success today on the guidance and help of the wonderful teachers of St Peter’s who helped me reach my potential”, she acknowledges.
Danyon Thomas showed strong leadership potential while at St Peter’s, and is now making his mark on the world.
In Year 13, Danyon was awarded a prestigious Future Leader Scholarship to Lincoln University where he is studying for a Bachelor of Environmental Management and Planning. The scholarship offers ‘hands-on’ leadership opportunities as well as a role in marketing the university to prospective students. Already, Danyon has gained useful international experience while studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for a semester. He has also served a term as President of the Lincoln University Students’ Association, clear recognition of his leadership potential.
Danyon’s time at St Peter’s was filled with co-curricular activities and leadership opportunities. While still in Prep School (Years 7–8), he joined the audiovisual team, which gave him the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the performing arts programme from the annual school production to Stage Challenge and Dance Showcase, to name a few. “I believe being involved in these events was essential to helping me be the well-rounded person I am today,” he acknowledges.
In Year 13, Danyon was selected for the Student Executive team as well as his AV Prefect role. He recognises the importance of these responsibilities when he notes these leadership roles “allowed me to develop organisation, time and people management skills that I have continued to use and refine.”
Another highlight of his final year was representing St Peter’s at the National Student Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held at Parliament in Wellington over two days. “This was a great opportunity to develop my diplomacy and public speaking skills”, Danyon recalls.
His decision to complete the International Baccalaureate Diploma in his final two years has also paid off, Danyon believes. He enjoyed the experience, saying it gave him great opportunities to challenge himself, and believes it has contributed to his success at university. “One of my favourite subjects was Business and Management as it gave me fantastic opportunities to apply what I had learnt in class to case studies and projects of my own choosing.”
Danyon reflects on the impact of his experiences at St Peter’s on his life: “I have no doubt the opportunities I had there, both inside and outside the classroom, have provided me with the skills that have allowed me to succeed. The supportive environment St Peter’s gave me during my seven years there enabled me to grow into the motivated person I am today.”
A key conversation with one of his teachers set George Hermans along the path to his future.
Now a dentistry student at Otago University, George was not initially sure of what he wanted to do with his life. “I grew up in Putaruru and the thought of such a career never entered my head. Well, maybe at a subconscious level I was interested in things medical as Dad was a vet and I watched everything he did and from an early age tried to help him when he performed surgery.”
Entering the International Baccalaureate programme was not his first choice but it was the right one, he now believes. George started at St Peter’s as a day student in Year 12, having done well in his first NCEA exams the year previously, and “it was suggested that I should try IB. I wasn’t sure about that initially, but agreed to a trial to see how I went. I am very grateful to them now. I just didn’t look back!
“I think it was the small group learning that did it for me, as well as working with people who had the same mind-set. You have to think critically in IB. You are really challenged and the focus is on independent learning but with huge support. You are the driver though; you drive your own learning.”
George firmly believes that St Peter's helped him to achieve by providing a strong academic grounding for future study. Also, “I think the co-educational environment is really beneficial. It lays a good social base to work from once at university in terms of skills and interacting with people.”
George reflects on all that St Peter’s has to offer. “It’s a great school for opportunities. When I was here, my main focus was on studying; however, I took part in all the general House competitions like synchronised swimming, athletics, Senior House singing and debating. I was in the cycling team as well.”
I have always liked learning and while each individual school I attended played a part in my educational journey, I think doing the International Baccalaureate programme at St Peter’s made all the difference.”
The range of sporting opportunities at St Peter’s was a big attraction when Sam Voss began in 2010. Now, Sam has risen to the top of her sport — rowing.
Sam has been awarded a prestigious Prime Minister's athlete scholarship, which allows talented young athletes to attend university while pursuing sporting excellence. In recent years, she has been selected for Rowing NZ’s U23 and U21 national teams. She is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science, through Massey University, while rowing full time.
Such a pathway would have been far from the mind of the young Sam when she started at St Peter’s in year 9. Netball and touch rugby were her main sports back then. Sam played for junior and senior netball development teams and also earned her qualification as a regional umpire, while her ability in touch rugby saw her selected to compete at the NZSS championships. “At the end of 2013, Year 12, I first climbed into a rowing boat and I haven't looked back. I was fortunate to have medal successes at club and school regattas while at St Peter's,” she recalls.
The highlight of her school rowing career was Sam’s final New Zealand Secondary School Championships in Twizel in 2014, where she won a gold and two silver medals. “I was then selected as part of the New Zealand Junior team and travelled overseas to compete in Hamburg, this all occurred in my final year at school.” Despite spending time abroad with the National team, Sam’s excellent time management skills allowed her to achieve an IB diploma with a grade she could be proud of.
Why did she choose the International Baccalaureate pathway? “IB really stimulated my mind and that makes study so much easier when you're actually enjoying what you're learning. I loved the writing side of English and History but also the hands-on research approach of my science subjects.” IB was also invaluable in terms of learning time management and study skills, “which have been essential while continuing to balance my rowing and study,” Sam notes.
Sam also found time, while managing her training and competing commitments, for other cultural activities at St Peter’s. “I assisted with Stage Challenge and Wearable Arts shows as well as completing music theory certificates.”
Sam acknowledges the importance of her St Peter’s education to her sporting and academic success: “My time at St Peter's helped shape me into the person I am today. Without the opportunities at St Peter's, I wouldn't be rowing at the level I am now.
“One of my mother's favourite sayings is that it takes a village to raise a child; the staff and students at St Peter's were part of my village.”
Photo credit: Steve McArthur. Rowing Celebration
Elizabeth McLean was drawn to St Peter’s because of the “countless opportunities” it offered as well as its vast campus. However, the leadership experiences that came her way are what she remembers most fondly as an adult.
Now a postgraduate student at Otago University, Elizabeth McLean (BCom, BSc) began Year 9 at St Peter’s in 2006, one of four siblings to be educated here. Another incentive was the school’s co-educational nature, giving her the opportunity to attend the same school as her two older brothers, Christopher and Nicholas, and younger brother Oscar. In Year 13, she was appointed Deputy Head Girl, a member of the Student Executive and Audio-visual Prefect.
Elizabeth has very positive memories of her time in the classroom. She chose to join the first group of International Baccalaureate students in her final two years, describing her decision as “incredibly easy, because the programme offered everything I could hope for in a senior academic course: a variety of subjects, independent learning and a strong focus on balancing academic work with community, cultural and sporting activities.”
It was the cultural and sporting activities on offer that soon engaged the young Elizabeth. “I was given opportunities above and beyond those that could be expected at most schools. So I tried to be as involved in the school community as possible,” she recalls.
A keen violinist, she joined both Petra Musica (the symphonic orchestra) and Viva Stringendo (the string orchestra), regularly winning gold medals with both groups at Waikato competitions. Her involvement with the annual school production, initially as a spotlight operator, developed Elizabeth’s passion for musical theatre. Over her five years, she also ran the lighting desk and played in the orchestra, culminating in her role as concertmaster for The Scarlet Pimpernel in 2010. “It was within the auditorium that I have some of my most cherished memories of St Peter’s.”
Another string to her bow is Elizabeth’s sporting talent. She joined both the girls’ 1st XI hockey team and the rowing squad in her first year, enjoying gold medal success at the prestigious Maadi Cup rowing regatta.
Elizabeth’s involvement in community projects while at St Peter’s has been a springboard to her current commitment to giving back to the community. She has held a number of leadership roles with university student organisations and initiatives. Now, she juggles full-time university study with part-time work with a community focus. While undertaking postgraduate research in the Psychology Department’s Child and Adolescent Development Laboratory, Elizabeth is a council member of Family Planning NZ, a regional facilitator for Surf Lifesaving NZ and tumuaki (president) of Te Rōpū Pūtaiao Māori Science Students’ Association.
Finally, this remarkable young woman reflects on her time at St Peter's: “I learnt to embrace everything that is unique about myself. It is with courage and conviction that I now take my place in the world, proud of where I come from and hoping to effect positive change in any way that I can.”
Paddy Gibson loved studying science at St Peter’s. Her favourite topics were genetics and organic chemistry. She also loved that her teachers were enthusiastic and inspiring, “pushing us to achieve but also to dream big.”
Dream big she did. Paddy, who began in Year 9 in 2006, has completed an MSc with first class honours and is about to embark on her PhD studies overseas. Not only that but Paddy’s research group at Canterbury University, along with international collaborators, has recently published some groundbreaking research looking at the effects of herbicides on antibiotic resistance in E coli and Salmonella.
Travel opportunities were a highlight of Paddy’s time at school. “In Year 11, I was lucky enough to be chosen to go on exchange to an all-girls’ school in Taiwan for three weeks. This was the most amazing experience,” she recalls. There was also a Geography trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in Year 13. “This was hugely educational for me, especially learning about the recent histories of both of these countries. It also really ignited a desire to travel.”
As an International Baccalaureate student, Paddy also took Spanish, “and I absolutely loved it,” she enthuses. With a trip to South America on her agenda, she is thankful to have some language in order to connect with the locals on her travels.
There were plenty of co-curricular opportunities at St Peter’s to keep this motivated student busy. “I think I got the most involved in my final year. Between coaching a Prep School hockey team, designing and sewing entries for the Wearable Arts show, and organising community service events, I was very busy. It was definitely a challenge but it really prepared me for university. My time management skills were very well developed and I also became good at maintaining a healthy work to life balance.”
Top swimmer Sam Perry had no problems keeping his head above water while managing to combine competitive sport with his studies at St Peter’s.
Sam is now on an athletics scholarship at Stanford University, California, completing an Economics degree. Interestingly, he finds Stanford to be “a lot like a much bigger version of St Peter’s, as it has amazing facilities with a relatively spread out campus — and even the buildings themselves are mostly a creamy-tan with orange tiles on the roofs.”
Swimming competitively was Sam’s focus while at St Peter’s and his commitment to the sport has certainly paid off. “I’m very happy with the continuing progression my times have followed since coming to Stanford,” he notes. “It culminated in two individual Pac-12 titles for me last year, and being named an Honourable Mention for the Pac-12 All-Academic Team.” Pac-12 is a conference of a dozen prestigious universities in the Western USA. To be given an Honourable Mention or to make the all-academic teams requires high academic achievement as well as sporting prowess. This is indeed recognition of Sam’s commitment to excellence.
Sam has come a long way since starting at St Peter’s in 2009 as a Year 9 student. But he acknowledges the importance of the school in getting him to where he is today. “I was an NCEA student, taking Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, English and French for my final two years of high school.
“I think the recommendations written for me by my teachers at St Peter's were a key component in my admission to US Universities. Physics and Calculus were the two classes I found most interesting, but I learned a lot from all five of them and actually had the most success in English.”
Sam swam at St Peter’s right through to Year 13 and enjoyed the convenience of all the facilities being on campus. “I was lucky to never feel too much pressure regarding the balance of school and sport; swimming and the time constraints that come with it are things that have always been around during my schooling. This, along with the fact that my teachers were very accommodating, made St Peter’s a good balance of work and relaxation for me.”
This very focused young man reflects on his time at St Peter’s, noting that ”it helped me a lot towards reaching my goal of studying at a good school in the States. I owe a lot to my teammates and coaches from swimming for keeping me honest; to my teachers for keeping me interested and engaged; to all of my friends for keeping a smile on my face every day, and to my parents for all the rest.”
Meher Saini certainly made the most of her time at St Peter’s, involving herself in as many cultural and sporting activities as she could while excelling academically.
Meher joined St Peter’s in 2007 as a Year 9 day student. Five years later, she was named joint Dux of the school at her final prizegiving. Now a junior doctor training in Melbourne, Meher reflects on balancing academic work with cultural and sporting activities.
“I loved getting involved [with co-curricular activities] at school — playing netball, learning guitar, Stage Challenge, and school productions to name a few. It was great to try different things, that weren't necessarily your strengths but you liked to have a go at them anyway. It has been much harder to stay involved in things like that at university, so I've really come to value that opportunity we had at school.”
One such opportunity, Meher’s favourite St Peter’s experience, was a two-week exchange to a school in Taiwan at the end of Year 11. “It was an incredible experience that taught me so much. It sounds cheesy to say that we formed lifelong friendships, but it's true!,” she recalls. “I recently met up with one of the girls from Taiwan while on an overseas elective, and seven years later it was as if not a day had passed since we last met.”
Meher took the International Baccalaureate diploma programme in her final two years. ”I think it really helped prepare me for the first year of university as it got us used to juggling lots of different things and keeping track of multiple deadlines, which is basically what university is, day in and day out,” she notes.
Another bonus of choosing IB was her involvement in the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) component of the course. “The CAS programme really helped expose me to various charity events and community groups, which is something that I've continued at university through my involvement with the Community and Wellbeing committee.”
Meher recalls her involvement in the Gwynnelands (day girls’) House activity knitting blanket squares for Romanian orphans. “I learnt to knit through that initiative, and it's something I've kept up as a hobby throughout university, even helping form a knit-for-charity club here for medical students.”
Finally, Meher reflects on what made her time at St Peter’s so memorable. “I think the most important aspect of St Peter's, for my own experience and education, was the quality of the teachers. I was lucky to always have these wonderful, inspiring mentors who actually cared. They were invested in us and our achievements — and that definitely helped us all perform as well as we did at school, and even afterwards.”
Did you find what you were looking for? Let us know if we can help!