Rotorua Young Achievers Programme reaches milestone

Three decades ago Tapekaa Umata was recognised as one of Rotorua Young Achievers for his cultural achievements at Rotorua Boys’ High School.

Today, he’s an account manager at Carters in Rotorua and was able to watch on with pride as his son Jimah Ruland-Umata was named a Young Achiever 30 years later.

Tapekaa Umata

Since the programme was established in 1991 more than 1300 local secondary school students have been recognised for talents as diverse as cultural, sporting, academic, music leadership, school and community involvement.

Now, to mark the milestone, Rotorua Trust is bringing together as many of the former achievers as possible at a special event in November to celebrate the achievements – and recognise this year’s achievers.

Mr Umata says it was a prestigious accolade being one of the first Young Achievers – and a real buzz having a photoshoot and being in the limelight.

“The awards cover a broad field of talents which is an even playing field for all – not just the academics. I’m looking forward to catching up with old school friends and seeing what they’re up to now.”

“My son saw my picture which still hangs at Rotorua Boys High School and he said to me he wanted to be up there one day too. I’m immensely proud of him following in my footpath.”

Jimah was nominated as a Young Achiever in 2019 for Leadership, Academic Excellence and Excellence in Performing Arts and is now in Auckland studying Health Science (Medicine).

Jimah Ruland-Umata

Another of the first to be recognised was Alison Keith for her contributions to science – a passion she is now sharing with the next generation as a science teacher at Taupo-nui-a-Tia College.

“I was nominated in 1991 while I was head girl at Reporoa College, it was a great validation to be recognised up against the bigger town schools.”

“I’m pleased the programme is still running, it’s an awesome accolade for students to aim for and I think it also helps them realise their value to society.”

Rotorua Trust Chairman Stewart Edward says about 45 local students are recognised each year, nominated by their school.

“The awards have been a great way of recognising a really diverse range of young people, and celebrating their contribution to both their schools, and the wider Rotorua community. We always love hearing their achievements.”

The Young Achiever’s programme was established by Rotorua photographer, the late Owen Howard, in 1991. Now administered by the Rotorua Trust, Owen’s vision continues through the support of a number of local sponsors.

The 30 year reunion will be held on Saturday 28 November at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre. Previous Young Achievers can join the private Facebook Group to see their photos and share stories of where they are now.

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