Aqsa Kothiwala never dreamed she’d be Head Girl material. As a “shy, nervous and awkward” Year 9 student the idea of becoming a school leader seemed wildly out of reach. But as they say, good things take time, and Aqsa’s five years at ACG Parnell College have been quite literally, transformative.
“To be honest, I never saw myself as capable of being Head Girl. I always felt like the head prefects had everything under control and were so confident,” says Aqsa, ACG Parnell College’s Head Girl for 2020.
“I really didn’t think that I could ever become a role model given how shy I am, and I am ever so grateful that senior management saw the potential in me.”
It has been the experience of a lifetime, giving Aqsa invaluable opportunities for personal growth and the chance to inspire others in the process.
“I have worked on my confidence a lot this year and built on my passion for leading and helping people. I’ve learnt to trust myself and have established my own leadership style. Being Head Girl has helped me come out of my shell and develop my decision making and team working skills.”
It has also been a great way for Aqsa to give back to a school she loves.
“When I first joined ACG I was really shy, nervous and awkward, and the Head Girl at the time really helped me settle in. This year, I wanted to be able to give that same experience to someone else. It makes me really happy that I’m now in a position to help others.”
Aqsa began her leadership journey in Year 10, as part of the Middle School student council. Year 11 saw her join the Senior School student council, and last year, she was a member of the prefect team.
“I feel lucky to have had all these different leadership opportunities. They have enabled me to make lots of new friends and leave my mark at ACG Parnell.”
A library monitor since 2016, Aqsa also helps out with peer tutoring and buddy reading and has been backstage crew for the school production every year. This year she assists with running the Middle School enviro club, and in her spare time enjoys practicing archery (in Year 9 she won an NASP archery tournament award) and playing netball and cricket.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve also been working towards my Duke of Edinburgh silver award, which has pushed me out of my comfort zone, developed my confidence, and taught me the importance of finding balance. I’m super-grateful I’ve been able to build these skills during my time at ACG, and I know they will be very useful in the future.”
It’s been quite a balancing act, juggling school commitments with her Head Girl duties and still managing to have a social life – and of course 2020 has brought a myriad of unexpected challenges. But Aqsa says it has been well worth the effort.
“I’ve really loved being Head Girl this year, meeting and interacting with our school students on a more personal level. Lockdown has definitely been a big challenge as we had planned so many events that had to be postponed or cancelled, and it was quite hard to be a Head Girl and lead the school and keep everyone connected from home.
“But in saying that, one of my biggest highlights was helping out with the temperature checking of students when we returned back after the first lockdown, as it enabled me to get to know everybody better and interact more personally the school. Also, during the lockdowns, the school’s social media accounts have been packed with student work and creative videos. It makes me feel so proud seeing all the incredibly talented artists, athletes and musicians that we have at our school.”
In a few more months Aqsa will say farewell to high school and prepare to take the next step in her learning journey – studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Auckland. Until then though, she plans to squeeze every last ounce out of her ACG experience, and in particular, her role as Head Girl.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at ACG Parnell, I have built relationships and memories that will last a lifetime and I feel really lucky to have had the experiences and opportunities I’ve had here. I never thought I had the potential to become Head Girl, so this year my biggest goal is to make people feel welcome and inspire those who, just like me, thought they could never be leaders.”