Kieren Gera is a year 13 student at Tawa College and is this year's (2010) head girl. She was chosen by the Hon Peter Dunne MP to represent Ohariu in this year's Youth Parliament (over two days in July).
"I was absolutely delighted with her performance," he says. "Kieren stood out from day one as a young leader, and as soon as I interviewed her I knew she would do a fantastic job and she certainly did."
He went on to say, "She's bright, she's articulate, she's motivated ... She knows what the issues are that young people face today, and she is strongly committed to doing her bit to address them. If Kieren is indicative of the calibre of person who will sit in Parliament in years to come, then Ohariu - and New Zealand - will be in very good hands."
Kieren was also one of three nominees in the new Youth category in the 2010 Tawa Community Civic Awards. She is shown above being presented with her certificate by the Deputy Mayor of Wellington.
Where were you born, Kieren?
London, England. We moved back to New Zealand when I was 6 weeks old.
Where did you grow up?
Lived in Rotorua (Rotaz) for 14 years. Moved to Tawa when my mum got a job down here. "I had no friends and had a very shaky start. I didn't enjoy Tawa at all for the first six months."
What schools have you been at?
Westbrook Primary School in Rotorua (100m away from my house), Rotorua Intermediate, Western Heights High School (Rotorua). Left there at the end of September in year 9 to come to Wellington.
"I got to choose which school to go to. Tawa College seemed like a community-focused school."
What subjects are you doing this year at college?
I am taking drama, stats, [pause] ... English, Maori, legal studies.
What are you hoping to do when you leave school?
Going to Victoria University. "I enrolled last night [late October] so I feel good." Studying political science, media and Maori. Doing a B.A. Haven't decided what I'm majoring in. I hope to get into journalism in the future, and plan to go to broadcasting school after I finish my degree. "But my opinions might change in the future."
What does being a head student actually involve, any particular responsibilities?
There are fewer responsibilities than I first anticipated. The commitments are what you take on yourself rather than what's handed to you as head prefect. There's organising and running events, being involved in peer tutoring and mentoring of students. The main thing I wanted to do as head girl was to get involved with the junior population at the school. I will also be giving a speech at the Leavers' Dinner at the end of the year.
What about family?
It's me and my mum in Tawa. I have three younger brothers and they live with my dad in Auckland. "I love my brothers to absolute death. I'll show you some photos ..." [which she did, courtesy of her cell phone - Ed.] "They're so handsome. The twins just turned 11. They're too cool for me. I'm the nerdy sister apparently."
What are your interests/hobbies?
I played rugby this year and I wasn't very good. I just enjoyed the whole team aspect. I also did dragon boating at the beginning of the year. I'd never done that before either. "I'm not really a sportswoman but by getting involved in two new sports I challenged myself, made heaps of new friends, and guess I got fitter along the way."
I teach children to swim at Tawa Pool - that's definitely an interest. I enjoy teaching and working with young kids.
What do you like about Tawa?
When I think about Tawa I think about a small community that isn't too small that everybody knows everybody, but small enough that everyone has a connection with someone. There's not an exclusive feel to Tawa. It's such a good place to grow up in. I like the view. I like how the houses fit into the hills and don't overcrowd them.
What's not so good about Tawa?
There's not much here besides a good place to live. We've got the necessary shops and Dressmart. It's not as alive or buzzing as the city where there's a lot more diversity. I think it's just because it's a small town.
What is your favourite dessert?
"Umm ..." [stroking her chin and thinking] "... rhubarb pie. I would do anything for rhubarb pie, straight out of the oven. With a bit of vanilla ice cream."
Favourite sports team and/or sportsperson?
The All Blacks and Sonny Bill Williams. "He's just a beautiful human being." I also support the Chiefs. "Go the Chiefs."
Favourite style of music and/or musical group(s)?
I like dub/reggae music, and I like normal pop music. Fat Freddy's Drop, Bob Marley, and any Kiwi artists really. "I love Kiwi music. We've got good music here."
Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
Pukehina Beach. "I used to go there when I was a kid." [Wasn't so sure of its whereabouts when questioned. Actually down the road from Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty - Ed.] "I have no sense of direction or geography. We have a GPS in our car to get around Tawa, let alone other places in NZ."
If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
"I think about people like Gandhi."
David Lange. "I'd like to meet him."
Shakespeare. "Put down Shakespeare - my English teacher will love me for that!"
What two or three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
I would take my fat pants (track pants), my iPod and [thinking] ... "What is the thing I cannot live without? ... and potatoes! I love potatoes - mashed, roasted, pot boiled, etc."
What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
I wish I was a super studier, that I could remember facts from class. I wish I loved it [study], and was really motivated.
What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
My talking abilities. "I can talk and talk until the sun goes down." It means that I get along with people.
Any accomplishments/achievements in your life (to date) that give you much satisfaction/pride?
Definitely getting head girl. I was really surprised and really happy when I was appointed head girl. I'm mostly proud of how far I've come. I've grown up a lot in the last four years. I'm just happy with who I am.
What are two or three things you would like to achieve in the years ahead?
To be successful in whatever career I end up in. I want to be happy in my occupation.
To have a big family. I definitely want to have kids.
I want to travel.
Compiled October 2010.