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Up the stairs

If you haven’t seen the hit video of a recent musical performance at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, find it on the internet now.

One hundred students from the school’s bands and choirs presented a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. From the opening bars on an acoustic guitar, the piece was captivating.

The lead singer began her low, velvety vocals, before the tempo took off with the ensemble of young musicians and singers, who delivered the rock anthem with atmospheric pizazz to a live audience of 3500.

The banging highlight was a guitar solo by Year 13 student Mia Fraser. After the video went volcanic online, Mia appeared on TV breakfast shows, in another well-deserved spotlight.

Two hours later, at Wairarapa College, students from Whare Āwhina Supported Learning Centre [SLC] took to the stage to deliver end-of-year performances to about 60 whānau, former students, staff and guests. It kicked off with some beautiful kapa haka.

Then, some students overcame extreme shyness to stand before the audience, speaking or presenting speeches through video, or other devices.

The teenagers spoke to their own beats, the silent audience hanging on to every word. There were no live musicians, no high-tech spotlighting, or jaw-dropping crescendos. There was no pressure, or rush, to stay in rhythm.

Each student was given time to be celebrated for individual achievements and for working as a team, demonstrating that with the right supportive environment, every student can shine.

We learnt about the students’ passions. Vinnie has a great love of animals and can mimic them. Just like Mia from Christchurch, Alex of Greytown plays the guitar and his love of drama has led to paid acting work.

Harry told us about sharks and his goal to swim with them; Sam talked about his favourite WWE wrestler; Rhion explained why she’s a fan of That Girl Lay Lay; Cody introduced us to his best friend, Dublin the dog.

Mei Ling, Liam, Ivy and Jamie expressed how much they love and appreciate their families, while Taylor spoke about his friend Adam. Hanna said she finds joy in eating lunch with her friends.

Amber, Anaru, Ava and Alex gave their pepeha in te reo Māori, Arthur wowed the audience with his knowledge of India and Lachie told us about his pet bull, Ferdinand, who has 22 girlfriends. Kursharn showed off his amazing designer tie.

The group said farewell to Sam Neal, who is graduating from the SLC with honours in athletics, among many other things.

The students were presented with achievement certificates, trophies and cups. Keira’s joy when receiving an accolade was just delightful, as was her reaction when she spotted her whānau in the audience.

Whare Āwhina SLC’s head of department Amanda Kawana, dressed as a Christmas stocking, read a long list of activities students completed in 2023 – sailing, drama, 10-pin bowling, balloon art, Rippa rugby, an overnight stay at Wellington Zoo, Showquest, a trip to GoZone, badminton, cooking, basketball and visits from Pūkaha Wildlife Centre.

Tributes were paid to former students – medal-winning Special Olympian Josh Taylor and the late Grace Yeats.

The students’ presentations were reflected with pride and warmth from the audience, as whānau laughed, applauded and acknowledged the hard work of the teenagers, Whare Āwhina staff and volunteers.

This year at Whare Āwhina SLC has been action-packed and “exhilarating and exhausting, but we would not have it any other way. We want more, we offer more and we achieve more,” Amanda said.

At every school in Wairarapa, students are navigating their stairways.

Some do it in the spotlight, others ascend quietly backstage.

Some have an escalator, others a wonky ladder.

Each one deserves applause and support.

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