Fianna Scholarship 2019

Shaquile and Nathen leading the way at Outward Bound 2019

Article by Aidan Bennett at Channel Magazine

Since 1989, the founding year, the St Patrick’s Day Golf Classic Charitable Trust has applied funds raised at its annual golf tournament (St Patricks Day Charity Golf Classic) to benefit young people and quite often those in need. In 2003 the trustees announced the inception of its Fianna Scholarships. It was decided that each year it would provide scholarships which would enable two young people from the North Harbour region to undertake a three week Mind, Body and Soul course at Outward Bound at Anakiwa in the Marlborough Sounds. This course is well known to provide invaluable life skills which the founding trustees believed would contribute immensely to the personal growth of these youngsters.

The inaugural scholarship winners were announced in 2004. They were Courtney Miller of Westlake Girls High School and Paul Hellyer of Rosmini College. Every year since, two students – most often from the same North Harbour school – have received the scholarship and attended Outward Bound. In 2011, following the Christchurch earthquake, the Fianna Scholarships were awarded to four deserving students from that city.

We ask the selected school to pick the recipients, with our only criteria being that it is unlikely that family circumstances would enable the winners to easily afford the course fees and air fares to Anakiwa.

Shaquile Iuli and Nathen Kay (both aged 17) were chosen from Albany Senior High School as the 2019 St Patrick’s Day Golf Classic Charitable Trust Fianna Scholarship recipients. I ventured along to Albany Senior High during February to chat to Shaquile and Nathen about their experiences at Outward Bound as they completed the three week course during December.

For a boomer that went to a provincial high school in the '70s, a visit to Albany Senior High is like another world. It is more like a university campus than a school. I drove in under the modern building, parked the car and took the lift up three stories to the impressive atrium-style reception area, complete with café. I went to Facebook in Silicon Valley a couple of years back and this place isn’t too dissimilar in style.

I had heard that Shaquile and Nathen were two impressive young fellows and I wasn’t disappointed. Chatting to them was very easy and they were both buzzing about their experience at Outward Bound. They were also humble and very grateful.

Shaquile is big in stature and a good talker. Clearly the Unsworth Heights youngster is an organiser as well. Unsurprisingly, he says that communicating and team building are two of his interests, as well as rugby, volleyball, basketball and music. He actually produces hip-hop and R&B music. Nathen is also into music – he plays guitar – and also enjoys movies, plays a bit of touch rugby and enjoys rugby, basketball and soccer. At Outward Bound he developed a liking for sailing and has a general love of the outdoors, camping etc. He was born in Australia. Shaquile attended Albany Junior High before coming to Albany Senior High. In contrast, Nathen – who lives at Massey Heights – started at the school in level two as a 16 year old.

Nathen says his previous school didn’t suit him at all. He is thriving at Albany Senior High as it allows him the flexibility of being himself. Shaquile loves it for the opportunities and freedom. He says they are encouraged to find their own identity.

So did they ever expect to be doing something like the Mind, Body and Soul course at Outward Bound?

“Never in my life.” said Shaquile Iuli. “I had no idea what it was all about, everything was completely new. I didn’t realise what it was all about until we got to the Marlborough Sounds. We were in groups of 14 people of our age – seven guys and seven girls. We also encountered some of the worst weather they had experienced for a while for just about the whole course.”

“Yes we had heavy rain a lot of the time,” added Nathen Kay. “It wasn’t cold but it was very wet which made it even more character building. The first day or so were spent getting to know all the new people. We were introduced to everyone with cultural songs which put a smile on everyone’s face. The great thing was that the leaders were super friendly and inviting which gave us all the energy to connect.”

“The expeditions were interesting; things like reaching the summit together meant that we quickly got to know these new people who came from all over the country,” added Shaquile. “Many were from the South Island and places like Wellington and Hamilton. We loved the team bonding and made life-long friends during the course. You could feel people opening up more and more as the days and weeks ticked by.”

Nathen explained that before the course he felt pressure to live in the moment and was at times conflicted on what to do with his life. He was angling towards becoming a doctor, mainly due to the likely income attached. But during the course he realised that life is not all about money and he should really think more about what his heart wants. So he made the decision that the health sciences is what he wants to do. Maybe to become a researcher that can really make a difference in helping overcome diseases etc.

Shaquile loved the tranquility of being by himself at times during the three weeks. Just him and his notebook. He says it was peaceful (except the insects and possums!). “One of the things we had to do was to write a letter to ourselves which was left behind at Outward Bound and will be posted to us in six months time."

“We had three days on our own with our notebook and rations,” explained Nathen. “I also enjoyed the time by myself; being solo made me reflect.”

Each morning everyone was up at 6am and the day started with a three kilometre run. That was followed by a coldish swim, and a shower.

“At the start it was hard, but by the end of the course it was much easier,” said Shaquile when reflecting on the early morning starts and running. “It was preparing us for the half marathon that we all had to complete at the end of the three weeks.”

Nathen took a liking to the sailing in the Marlborough Sounds, although due to the inclement weather the conditions were windy and the sea choppy, but he loved going fast in the boats and the adventure of it all. “We did the training on the boats and then were to go sailing for three days and two nights, although one of those nights was cancelled due to the weather.”

The course proved a life-changing experience for Shaquile Iuli. “It really does change you, there’s no doubt about that. It opens your eyes to a new perspective on life. Shows that we can push ourselves to do more and that we need to do it ourselves and push beyond our boundaries.”

“We expected that it would be hard, and it was,” said Nathen. “Most of the skills we gained weren’t activities but things like how you work together with people, interact and get along with them and understand their strengths. We were also encouraged to speak up.”

Both Nathen and Shaquile say that they realised during the course that they were leaders. One day during the course they were paired with people that were quite different in beliefs and abilities and encouraged to work together. They both found that challenging yet very rewarding.

“There was no doubt that parts of the course were very tough,” said Nathen. “But after you get through the challenge you feel like you could do it all again. The sailing was like that for me. At first very challenging, but the second time easier as you build trust in those around you. The leaders were there to challenge us to lead ourselves. It was physically challenging; for me the running on the Queen Charlotte Track was real hard. When I was a bit down I saw a quote on the wall in one of the toilets that said ‘there is more in you’ and that gave me encouragement to get to the finish. In fact I helped a friend in our group who fell over and was in a bad way. We made it to the finish together.”

The St Patrick’s Day Golf Classic Charitable Trust annual golf tournament is due to be held for 2020 at North Shore Golf Club on Friday 6th March, with a field of around 170 players play on all 27 holes of the popular course with a dinner and prizegiving held afterwards in the club house.