Empowering young leaders
10 Jul 2018
The standing ovation and spontaneous haka said it all. With his passionate, powerful and inspiring speech, teacher Marcus Akuhata-Brown captured the hearts and minds of the hundreds of Year 12 students at the 10th anniversary Emerging Leaders conference at College on Tuesday 3 July.
Marcus grew up on his ancestral lands near Gisborne, the rugged Raukumara Range and Te Ara ki Hikurangi, its highest peak, the backdrop of his childhood. As a teenager he was disconnected, didn’t think he was good enough, wanted to drop out, until an inspirational young teacher ignited the spark, calling all Māori boys into the school hall and delivering a message that went “through my head and hit my heart.”
“He said, ‘If I can make it, you can make it, but the decisions you make today will affect the rest of your life.’ It was simple, but so powerful and it really connected with me.”
Marcus resolved to make good decisions. He stayed at school, became the first member of his family to go to university, and ultimately qualified as a teacher. It wasn’t always easy and there were many occasions when he was way out of his comfort zone, but he persevered and made the most of every opportunity. He has since led a number of alternative education programmes addressing the learning needs of youth at risk and young offenders, represented New Zealand at CHOGM as a member of the Commonwealth Youth Caucus, worked for CIVICUS, and become a gifted and inspiring speaker.
He encouraged the students to have the courage to make good choices and embrace life’s challenges and opportunities. “Your life is really valuable, like a precious coin. You can spend it anywhere you want to, but you can only spend it once. Never underestimate the positive impact you can have on the lives of others. Who are you and where do you fit?”
Emerging Leaders is organised by College’s Director of Character & Leadership Darrell Thatcher and sponsored by the Sir Peter Blake Trust as part of its Leadership Week activities.
“Many of the students who attend Emerging Leaders are preparing to take on leadership roles in their schools. This conference enables them to draw on the skills and experiences of others as they learn to lead, and encourages them to think about the type of leader they want to become,” says Darrell.