Big wins for Lincoln whānau at 2023 Selwyn Awards

15 August 2023 | News

Lincoln University students and staff members had a lot to celebrate at the recent 2023 Selwyn Awards, which recognised the outstanding achievements of those living or working in the district.

Honouring community volunteers and paying tribute to young achievers, the awards are presented every second year during a gala at the Selwyn Sports Centre.

Among the 2023 winners were several exceptional members of the Lincoln University whānau, who stood out as a result of their community work.

Sophie Williams: Young Achiever (Gold Award) and Community Volunteering (Silver Award)

Bachelor of Commerce (Global Business) student Sophie Williams received two honours: a Gold Award in the Young Achiever category and a Silver Award for Community Volunteering.

As a Future Leader scholar at Lincoln University, Sophie has undertaken a range of local volunteering activities, including organising an event earlier this year to strengthen community relationships between people with disabilities.

Connect & Accept was held in March at the Rolleston Community Centre and showcased disability-related support, products, sports and clubs. Organisations hosted stalls, guest speakers discussed disability education, and a fun component of the event included a display of vehicles and machinery, a mobile animal farm, outdoor activities and games, a sensory room and a tearoom.

Sophie said she was “absolutely ecstatic” to receive recognition in the Selwyn Awards.

“It made me reflect on all the effort and hours I’ve put into it and all the people who’ve supported me along the way.

“My motivation for community volunteering has two parts, honestly. Firstly, my brother has a disability and I’ve always wanted to be there for him and for the disability community.

“Secondly, it’s knowing that what you do can make a difference for someone else and make them smile, whether it’s dancing with a group of kids or weeding a garden.”

Emily Osborne: Young Achiever (Gold Award)

Another advocate for the local disability community is Lincoln student Emily Osborne, who received a Gold Award in the Young Achiever category.

Emily began Summer School at Lincoln University at the end of 2021, having missed out on University Entrance after battling illness for most of year 13.

She started the campus club, Iconic, which supports students with disabilities, chronic illnesses, neurodiversity and everyone in between.

Expanding to include 45 members in less than a year, Iconic now has a full calendar of events and meets fortnightly on campus.

Additionally, Emily offers disability advocacy and mentorship to Lincoln students.

She said she developed the club to ensure that all students, especially those with disabilities, felt “included and part of the Lincoln University whānau”.

“The win was amazing, but honestly I couldn’t have done this without all the support from the amazing Wheako Tauira team, and my friends who have cheered me on, even through the hard times.”

The Wheako Tauira (Student Experience) team are staff members who work within the wider Student Engagement unit at Lincoln University and provide support to all tauira.

Shayla Rigg: Young Achiever (Gold Award)

Bachelor of Science (Conservation and Ecology) student Shayla Rigg, who’s studying for an additional major in Parks and Outdoor Recreation, received a Gold Award in the Young Achiever category.

She has been involved in various leadership roles, events and passion projects throughout the Selwyn community, such as the Bioblitz at Muriwai o Whata and the Mini Bioblitz at Mahoe Reserve. Bioblitzes involve celebrating biodiversity by joining together with members of the community to find as many species as possible in a particular area during a day. Participants uploaded their findings to the iNaturalist app.

These experiences inspired Shayla to organise a two-part event called The Biodiversity Connection: Be the Braided River, which will include restoration planting along the Waimakariri.

Shayla has played an active role in many other initiatives and her leadership positions include Vice-President of the Lincoln University Student Volunteer Army, President of The Pottery Club, and a member of the Lincoln University Ecology and Conservation Executive Board.

She said her passion for short-term and long-term sustainability in the environmental and wellbeing sectors had driven her to become involved in a variety of local activities.

“The sense of community and educating people about the importance of the environment and wellbeing has motivated me to continue my involvement. It’s nice to be recognised by the Selwyn community with other inspirational youth doing amazing mahi in their sectors.

“This has hopefully inspired other youth to find a passion that motivates them to make change within the community.”

Angela Milner: Community Volunteering (Gold Award)

Lincoln University Research Management Office staff member Angela Milner won a Gold Award in the Community Volunteering category for her tireless efforts towards supporting special needs children, people affected by cancer, and those requiring help in emergencies.

Angela is an inaugural member of the Selwyn Civil Defence Welfare Team (now the Selwyn Emergency Support Team) and a Board of Trustee member for Waitaha Special School, where she has contributed significantly to the quality of life for children.

She said the award win was “totally unexpected, as we had a large section and so many deserving people in it”.

“I volunteer in my community to try to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those around me. If I can help bring a little happiness to those people who are either going through a cancer journey or living through a disaster, then I have achieved my goal.”

Norafizah Abdul Rahman: Community Volunteering (Bronze Award)

A Bronze Award in the Community Volunteering category went to Lincoln PhD student Norafizah (Fiza) Abdul Rahman, who is secretary for the Lincoln University Muslim Association (LUMA). Fiza is dedicated to fostering a sense of belonging amongst Muslim students and supporting them to build relationships with others on campus and in the wider community.

"I know the feeling of being far away from home," she said.

"That's not easy, especially for a minority Muslim student, so I wanted to connect people with others so they're not alone.

"I always tell myself that we make a life by what we give and we won't be less by helping others. Let's be the blessing that others need. No one should be left alone on this journey."

Fiza said that inititally, she couldn't believe she had been nominated for the award. 

"Even on the night of the gala dinner, I was still in denial. I thought it was too good to be true! I am so grateful that I was nominated by the Lincoln University Student Experience team."

Te Awhioraki Maori Students’ Association: Community Volunteering (Gold Award)

Te Awhioraki Māori Students’ Association received a Gold Award for Community Volunteering for their commitment to promoting Māori tauria governance at all levels of the university.

The association supports the growth of Te Ao Māori on campus through initiatives that help people on their cultural journeys and facilitate the development of Te Reo Māori.

Te Awhioraki Tumuaki Takirua (Co-Presidents) Travis OBoyle and Brooklyn Greer-Atkins were immensely grateful to receive the honour.

“We are very thankful for all the support Te Awhioraki has been given, and the amazing tauira who have contributed to making Te Awhioraki what it is today,” Travis said.

Brooklyn added that the award “would not have been possible without the hard work of the Te Awhioraki exec and the continuous support from our students”.

Main image: Front, Emily Osborne and Shayla Rigg. Back, Brooklyn Greer-Atkins, Travis OBoyle, Angela Milner and Fiza Rahman.