The bright futures of Georgia Cook and Libby Bradley are being further supported, with Zespri awarding the two school-leavers $15,000 academic scholarships for the next three years.
Georgia, an 18-year-old from Thames High School, and 17-year-old Katikati College student Libby were chosen from nearly 200 applicants around New Zealand, with the scholarships designed to encourage top students to take up careers in the kiwifruit industry.
Georgia is heading to Otago University to pursue a Bachelor of Science majoring in human nutrition, while Libby has her eyes on a law degree through Victoria University in Wellington.
The scholarships will contribute up to $5000 each year in tuition costs, with Georgia pleasantly surprised by the scope of the kiwifruit industry.
“It's so wide, from engineering to law like Libby's doing, through to dietetics - I had no idea the kiwifruit industry was such a big industry, bringing together so many people,” she says. “It's really nice to be recognised and for Zespri to think I'm worth backing and supporting - it takes a long time to earn that amount of money.”
Georgia's community involvement and all-round excellence helped set her apart in the applications. She was a deputy head student at Thames High School this year, won the school award for significant contribution to the school and community and, for the past 18 months, has volunteered as a firefighter at the Thames and Pauanui stations.
“I joined up because I wanted to defy the stereotype of what a firefighter should look like and, as a young female, I thought it would be a cool opportunity to be a good role model and give back to my community. I love it - it's the highlight of my week.”
Libby also spends much of her spare time volunteering, as a lifeguard with the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service, although it's as a competitive surf lifesaver that she's made her mark. The outstanding swimmer and runner represented the New Zealand Youth team at the world surf lifesaving championships in the Netherlands earlier this year and won national titles on both the beach and in the pool.
Raised on kiwifruit and avocado orchards, she was also the deputy head girl at Katikati College this year and has ambitions of joining a multinational company, specialising in corporate law, and hopefully in the horticulture realm.
“Horticulture and kiwifruit definitely have big futures,” says Libby. “Our school and whole community is based around kiwifruit orchards and I've definitely learned how much a good kiwifruit season can help the community, in so many ways like sponsorship and employment. My main goal this year as deputy head girl was to inspire others, through my sport, and I'd be keen to continue that leadership in my career. I want to show that even though Katikati has a small community, we can still do big things.”
Libby has a hectic summer ahead, with plenty of surf lifesaving carnivals to compete in, avocados to pick and kiwifruit vines to prune and tie-down.
Zespri general manager grower and external relations Dave Courtney says the two successful applicants were the pick of a high-calibre pool.
“Georgia and Libby are exactly the kind of future leaders Zespri is looking to support as they begin their respective careers, although we were incredibly heartened by the quality of all applicants this year,” says Dave. “We were most impressed with the level of community involvement the two girls demonstrated. The New Zealand kiwifruit industry is set for strong future growth and forming links to top young talent through the scholarship programme is critical to supporting that future.”
As well as contributing to tuition fees, the scholarships also offer mentoring and support throughout the course of study, which includes the chance to build networks in the kiwifruit industry. Two scholarships are offered each year.