Wakatipu High leaders bound into 2014

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Wakatipu High’s new head students are ready for anything – they’ve both just done a 21-day survival course.

For the second year running, the school’s incoming head girl and head boy have been put through the rigours of leadership-focused courses at Outward Bound in the Marlborough Sounds. 

Ella van der Geest, 17, who went in December, says she’d been pretty nervous about how she’d cope with the physical intensity.

“Once you get there you realise how quickly you become fit and that you actually can achieve it if you just put your mind to it, just push through the pain, I guess.

“It was pretty phenomenal in learning your own abilities to achieve so much more than what you previously thought you could.”

Matthew Nicholson, 17, who attended last month, was more concerned how he’d get on with his group – there were 12, all his age, on his watch.

“We did a ‘leader of the day’ where you were paired up with someone who had a very different leadership style – as a pairing you ran the group.

“Then you did a review of that process and that’s where a lot of the powerful feedback around your own leadership style came from.” 

Matthew says he’d been less nervous about the physical fitness required but says it was still a challenge.

“One day I got up at 4.30am and we finished tramping at 10 o’clock at night.” 

One highlight for both students was the two-night solo where everyone is sent out into the wild to survive and reflect by themselves. 

Ella says: “You had to write a letter home saying what changes you’ve seen within yourself and a letter to yourself which they send to you in six months’ time.”

Ella says the main highlight was completing a half-marathon at the end of the camp: “That was pretty amazing ’cos I entered it not sure whether I’d be able to run the whole thing – I exceeded my expectation.” 

Matthew adds: “We were definitely not training for a half-marathon, everything in the outdoors was a forum to achieve a different learning – a personal development or a group thing.”

Wakatipu High principal Steve Hall, a former training manager and director at Outward Bound, says a number of other students and staff have also been put through the course.

Halls says the local Colliers International branch helped Ella and Matthew attend.