A dynamic student leadership programme underpinned by the values of courage, excellence, integrity and respect is shaping tomorrow's leaders at ACG Tauranga.
Driven by a vision to empower all students to build their leadership capabilities, the school encourages pupils to contribute to local, regional, national and global communities. Last year, the programme was expanded to encompass Middle School roles and the school's four strategic pillars (Sports, Arts, Community, and Learning). While this year, a Houses portfolio has been introduced.
"We believe in leadership that inspires us to be the best version of ourselves – reaching our potential while supporting and encouraging others to do the same," says Year 10 to 13 Dean Jackie Webb.
"We offer a diverse range of leadership opportunities, and students are in the unique position to have a voice in the establishment of the student leadership structure and programme."
It's not about gaining leadership roles to enhance university applications. Instead, it's about building skills that equip students for life, from collaboration and conflict resolution to emotional intelligence (EQ) and social skills.
"Our leadership programme enables students to develop their relational and collaborative skills with a future focus while weaving our school values into our community, the classroom, the sports field and the performing arts."
The importance of community service
Teacher in Charge (TIC) of the Community pillar Nicky Gawler says there are many ways students can get involved. These include the Interact Club (Rotary's high school programme), Techconnect, food bank drives, charity fundraisers and student ambassador roles.
"We want students to be inclusive and empathetic, and service to others is a great way to instil these values. Service outside our school community helps students widen their worldview and contribute to the communities they're part of in positive and enriching ways.
"By working together on service projects, students gain organisation, collaboration and communication skills and develop kindness and empathy for others. What they're constantly surprised about is how good these actions make them feel!"
Learning: more than just grades
ACG Tauranga's Learning pillar challenges students to think about what they learn about themselves and each other throughout their learning journey. And as Learning pillar TIC Sue Wood explains, it's not all about grades.
"Sometimes it's about what can be learnt from not doing so well, which has been an important focus this year. A student-driven peer mentoring scheme has been introduced, and we're looking to offer 'drop-in clinics' where senior students provide help at lunchtimes.
"Students can also grow their leadership skills through in-school events. They've organised speakers, PowerPoint presentations, and run sheets for everything from the IG-A Level information evening and Pathways Planning to the House quiz and Pi Day. In doing so, they've developed invaluable skills in communication, timing (how not to panic!), public speaking, delegation of jobs and encouraging others.
"Recently, our senior leaders teamed up with the Primary School to organise a spelling bee. They gained so much satisfaction from working together and seeing other students enjoy themselves."
Arts: a unique opportunity for development
According to Arts pillar TIC Kelly Hayward, giving students responsibility and accountability is vital.
"If someone else steps in and does the job for them, students don't ever understand the importance of coming through on something, of keeping their word, and of sticking at it. It also gives them the satisfaction of knowing that they did it and be proud of their success.
"Student leaders within the Arts pillar are responsible for running arts events throughout the year, such as 'ACG's Got Talent'. But aside from these formal roles, there are plenty of other leadership opportunities, such as mentoring a Primary dance troupe, starting a rock band, leading sectionals at Chamber Ensemble rehearsals, or being part of a founding group.
"I see leaders in every group of students I work with. They're those that encourage, support others, offer to help, are on time, come prepared, are creatively courageous and willing to put their ideas out there – all amazing attributes!"
Promoting teamwork and collaboration through sport
Head of Sport, Ian Shaw, believes sport is a vital part of leadership and plays a powerful role in boosting self-esteem and confidence. While the Year 12 and 13 Senior Retreat provides a great opportunity for senior students to strengthen skills, there are exciting opportunities across all year levels.
"Students can undertake low stakes roles (such as helping with equipment or tidying up) through to full leadership roles (such as team captains and umpires). In PE and sport lessons, teamwork and collaboration are imperative to success. The ability to be a good team player, understand your strengths and weaknesses and be resilient to improve them all help you become the best version of yourself.
"Meanwhile, House events and assemblies enable sports leaders to work with other pillars of school leadership to plan, advertise, organise and run events. This unique opportunity works on skills of negotiation, communication, marketing and public speaking."
With such a vast array of opportunities on offer at ACG Tauranga, all students have the chance to grow their leadership potential through channels that resonate with them.