Jamie Fenton one year on...

19 March 2012

It all started for me late in 2010 when I found I was a finalist for the Young New Zealander of the Year awards. When I saw the calibre of the other nominees I thought that there was no way I had a chance of winning. As it was, I wasn’t able to attend the award ceremony in February because of a family trip to the United Kingdom.

However as we were passing through Auckland to fly to the UK I did meet the organisers of the awards to film what I thought was a “congratulations” speech to the winner. Instead, they told me I was actually the recipient for 2011. I am still surprised at this and I think that the main reason I won might have been to provide a role model for other young people. I have been privileged to have had many opportunities throughout my life, and I hope that my story might help other young New Zealanders and their mentors to look for similar opportunities for themselves.

The Young Australian of the Year, Jessica Watson and I were both invited speakers at the Australia/NZ Leadership Forum. Although our achievements are quite different, we both had a similar message – not to underestimate young people.

My year included trips to Wellington and Auckland, sponsored by Coca-Cola Amatil. I experienced a Good Morning TV interview, spent the day shadowing Minister Paula Bennett, attended the Back-benchers TV show, Pecha Kuchas, Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, learning about the Ministry of Youth Development, attending and assisting at the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, and much more.

Many thanks to the people at Coca-Cola Amatil (especially Suzy Clarkson) for sponsoring the award, and for providing me with so many wonderful experiences and opportunities this year. Also thanks to the many people who made this year so rewarding, including the Ministry of Youth Development, and many others. Thank you for all your support.

The Ministry of Youth Development would like to congratulate Sam Johnson, the 2012 recipient of the Young New Zealander of the Year Award after he formed the Student Volunteer Army that provided invaluable assistance after the devastating Christchurch earthquake in February 2011.

Check out the other winners of New Zealander of Year