Top of the class . . . Waitaki Girls’ High School head girl Tilly King (18) has been named this year’s dux. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Secondary schools in Oamaru have produced a fine batch of scholars this year.
Tilly King wants to inspire others.

After spending the past year focused on doing her best, the Waitaki Girls’ High School head girl said she was honoured to be named dux.

While much of her time was spent advocating for environmental issues, it was a nice surprise to be recognised for her academic work too, Tilly said.

‘‘My top goal was just to be happy in what I was doing and being proud of that,’’ she said.

‘‘Being dux, you don’t have to be really, really smart — you can do other things too.’’

It was by doing those other things that Tilly made a name for herself.

Her passion for the environment led her to the school’s Enviro Club in 2017. She has led the club for the past two years and is proud of its growth from 12 to 30 members, and its work installing compost and recycling bins at the school.

She helped organise Waitaki’s School Strike 4 Climate events, and was involved in action at a national level. She also attended the Blake Inspire annual forum in May, the highlight of her year.

Tilly is also a member of the Waitaki District Youth Council.

‘‘I kind of feel like that I’ve been a bit inspiring to other people . . . that they can follow their dreams, and follow their passions, and get involved in things.’’

Tilly’s passion for the environment comes from her home in Herbert where she is surrounded by native trees and near the Waianakarua River. The river is clear, fresh and healthy — but as she explored throughout New Zealand she realised not all rivers were the same.

‘‘I think we kind of owe it to our earth to help it out. In this situation now we have to do something about it.’’

Waitaki Girls’ helped foster her development and grow her passion, she said.

‘‘It’s kind of helped me, and structured me into the person that I am . . . and follow that path that I want to follow.

‘‘The teachers have all been really amazing in helping you find passions and sharing their passions for learning.’’

Next year, Tilly planned to study towards a bachelor of environmental science at the University of Canterbury, having received three scholarships.

She is looking forward to heading to university and excited to see where her studies take her.

‘‘I guess as well being surrounded by lots more people that share my passion and align with my way of life.’’

In the future she hoped to work for the Department of Conservation and her dream job would be helping kākāpō on Whenua Hou Island, near Stewart Island/Rakiura.