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Hauraki Plains College Head Boy Charlie O’Neill was named Dux for 2023 and amassed a horde of awards. Photo: Supplied

‘Work hard, kids’: Top pupil’s sense of pride

Making a bet with his closest Dux rival was just one of the ways Charlie O’Neill made a year of hard work more enjoyable.
And now, after being named Hauraki Plains College’s Dux for 2023 and receiving the Leonard Cup and Lynn Penrhys-Evan Memorial prize, Charlie is making sure to be proud of his monumental efforts.
The 17-year-old Year 13 student was also named the school’s all-round excellence recipient, and received the Stuart Hamilton Memorial Prize for demonstrating outstanding achievements in academics, sports, culture, and service.
He told The Profile he felt “a great sense of pride” after being acknowledged at the school’s Senior Academic prizegiving this month.
“I knew that my many, many hours of hard work, resilience, and sacrifice had paid off,” he said. “This year’s achievements were something I had to work extremely hard for, which makes them all the more satisfying. Work hard kids.”
Charlie, who obtained 100 Excellence credits and many subject awards including nine distinctions and one commendation, was also the college’s Head Boy and captain of the boys’ First XI football team.
When asked how he managed to juggle his sporting and academic commitments, Charlie said simple things – like using a diary – were helpful.
“Sport has always been my happy place, especially football – my escape from schoolwork you could say – so it was always easy to find time to dedicate to it.
“For everything else, I was very lucky to have an amazing team of students and teachers who helped carry the load,” he said. “On a personal level, though, I found using a diary very helpful. It taught me that there are actually so many free hours in a day, which I could then take advantage of through careful planning.”
Charlie has been offered significant financial scholarships from two universities following his graduation from Hauraki Plains College.
Things he’ll remember from his time studying there include the support of the staff and his fellow students, the school’s positive culture, and “having a good laugh with my mates”.
His advice for students who will be coming into NCEA in the following years is to make school work fun.
“I did this by making a bet with my closest rival for Dux, which made a year of hard work more enjoyable,” he said. “And it sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes you need to not work as hard, to do your best work. Don’t overwork and stress yourself out, sometimes you simply need to chill out.
“So, work hard, but not too hard. What you do when you’re not working is equally as important as what you do when you are.”
Meanwhile, Lovese Gunn received the runner-up academic award to the Dux – the Proxime Accessit. She won the Hauraki Plains Jaycee Cup and Ngātea District High School Award for gaining all possible internal excellence credits offered across her subjects.