More explicitly though, last year’s Aurora leaders were chosen with a specific purpose in mind. This was the brief to represent the new organisation as “Ambassadors of Aurora.” These selected students required very competent oral communication skills and the aptitude to readily connect with people. Assured self-confidence was another preferred strength, especially in relation to public speaking roles within the wider community context. The focus on excellent oratory talents were well suited to the high percentage of Māori leaders selected for this accelerate group. Mature interpersonal abilities were particularly desirable to fulfil the high expectations of everyone working within the Aurora leadership model. In 2016, the first year of operation, these multi-talented students were ‘polished’ in preparation to play a key role at the official launch of Aurora. The delivery of the presentation on their leadership experiences was the pinnacle of the programme. Such a splendid highlight became one to be shelved under the title of ‘unforgettable’. This was namely because their Aurora leadership journey was performed in front of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Bill English, only a few days before he became the New Zealand Prime Minister!
The bi-cultural side of the Aurora leadership programme was to challenge children to research how the historic sense of place impacted on local identity for both ethnicities. The student-designed “Tūranga Tiki Tour” was a half-day pictorial trip around all the iconic heritage attractions of Gisborne city. This was a close-up inspection on the significance attached to the key landing sites on the shore, tying into the navigation stories of both peoples.
There was moral outrage that the original landing site for both the Māori and European cultures was not sacred. Indeed, this symbolic icon is far from honoured. It is now an ignominious storage space for stacking logs for the Port of Gisborne! There was even talk of letters to the newspaper editor in protest. The fermenting social awareness is perhaps one of the strongest, most far-reaching developments for Aurora leaders. It sets them on the path to acknowledge their dual birthright of Tūranga-Gisborne. Like the hope entrenched in the Te Hā vision, the exchange of breath symbolises a future sharing, an equality nearly 250 years later from the fateful first encounter of two contrasting cultures. These young Aurora role models should have the early experience to lead the way; to walk with pride and ease in both worlds. Diversity in this gifted education context is not about difference. Instead, cultural diversity is branded as a merging, a blending of cultures promising a more enlightened future.
In Tūranga-Gisborne, those working together to advance diverse gifted and talented children want nothing more than that they grow up as culturally enlightened and caring young citizens. To bring this ambition to fruition, we would do well to heed the words of Maya Angelou: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.” Yet, with true Aurora flair, perhaps our leaders say it best in their own slogan, “Why just shine, when you can sparkle!”
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Keen, D. (2006). Talent in the new millennium and tracking talent. Paper presented at the Rising Tides: Nurturing our Gifted Culture Conference. Wellington.
Ministry of Education. (2012). Gifted and talented students: Meeting their needs in New Zealand schools. Wellington: Learning Media.
Riley, T., & Bicknell, B. (2013). Gifted and talented education in New Zealand schools: A decade later. APEX: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education, 18(1). Retrieved from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex
Rymarczyk Hyde, C. (2001). Māori Children with Special Abilities (MCWSA). Recognising and providing for: “Ngā pohutukawa roa - tall pohutukawas”. In Above the Clouds: Ka rewa ake ki ngā kapua. Identifying and nurturing Maori students of promise. Christchurch: University of Canterbury.
Karen (Sunny) Bush
Executive Director: The Aurora Education Foundation
giftEDnz Board Member
Posted as part of the 2017 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour #NZGAW, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.