3 July 2012
You could have heard a pin drop in Te Papa when 300 young leaders from 30 schools throughout the archdiocese listened to Cure Kids ambassador Alexander McKay on June 14 at the Catholic Young Leaders Conference.
This engaging young man was deputy head boy in his last year at Auckland’s Sacred Heart College. He was dux of the college and received numerous awards.
Now a third-year law and commerce student at Auckland University, he has been awarded a Price Waterhouse Coopers scholarship. He also has a golf handicap of nine.
And this is what grabbed the audience: Cure Kids is a cystic fibrosis charity and Alex himself has cystic fibrosis. This has presented challenges that most of us never have to endure – dozens of pills and physiotherapy every day, trying not to get sick – but he has done so with fortitude and faith.
When it comes to managing time and rebounding from set-backs there are few better examples than Alex, and his twin sister. Lizzie, who also has CF.
Addressing the day’s topic, ‘Young People Doing Great Things’, Alex focused on the Catholic approach to leadership: leading by serving others. Sacred Heart’s concept of servant leadership meant that Alex spent his lunchtimes picking up rubbish and making friends with the juniors, helping them to enjoy themselves.
‘My prefect team helped me on projects and I helped my Head Boy on projects. We worked together and we didn’t ask to be thanked because we were doing what we knew we should be doing.’
Another gripping event occurred during the mystery performance after morning tea when the Action Speaker Louder Than Words percussion led the kids drumming and playing together – without any verbal instructions. They blew the roof off.
Inspiring in a different way from Alexander McKay was ex-boxer and ex-hard case Billy Graham. Now in his mid-60s and after a tough start, Billy pulled his life together through boxing and discovered the joy of learning and music. He grabbed the kids’ attention from the moment he stepped on stage – funny and silly and wise.
The day was hosted by TVNZ’s Daniel Faitaua and the 10 to 13-year-olds, chosen as leaders by their schools, took every opportunity to have their photos taken with him while also being entertained and inspired.
Another TVNZ alumnus, Matty McLean of Close Up, offered his story of single-mindedness in pursuit of a goal. He fell in love with broadcasting as a youngster and travelled the path from working for nothing at a local radio station, through broadcasting school, to being in the right place at the right time when it came to gaining employment doing what he loves.
Jude Watson and Andy Wotton who recently went to Cambodia with Habitat for Humanity, gave an illustrated presentation on building a house for a family who would otherwise not be able to afford one.
Whitireia Polytechnic’s Samoan performance group and the Belles Voix singers from St Catherines provided musical interludes and Archbishop John Dew welcomed the young leaders.
Images, from top: Olivia Henderson, Charlotte Logan, Shannon Collier and Tiana Sio from St Claudine Thévenet, Wainuiomata.
Bishop Viard College’s kapahaka group begin the day’s entertainment.
Daniel Faitaua of TVNZ’s One News
Erica Pihema, Year 8 at Ss Peter and Paul School, Lower Hutt, waits for the day to start.
Matthew Mann, Zac Davis and Declan Wilcock from Our Lady of the Rosary School, Waiwhetu.
Dominic Oliver, Mathias Marsters-Taniwha and Connor O’Sullivan of St Joseph’s School Levin.
Some 300 students from 30 schools in the archdiocese, teachers and parents stand to sing ‘Ka Waiata’ by Richard Puanaki of Wairoa at the start of the Young Catholic Leaders’ Day in Te Papa, June 14.