She’s won countless sporting awards, written and directed a school production, and held nearly every school leadership role imaginable. But for ACG Sunderland Head Girl Shannon Macdonald, it’s the smallest things that have provided the greatest rewards.
“The absolute highlight of being Head Girl has been earning the trust of people and seeing the positive impact I’ve had on someone’s life when they’ve been going through a difficult time,” says Shannon.
“I make a habit of giving students a high five in the halls or checking in on them every time I pass the sickbay. It’s these little things that people appreciate the most and ironically they’re the easiest to do. Just be kind.”
While Shannon has a natural affinity for people, she says ACG Sunderland has also played a key role in developing her sense of compassion.
“Sunderland has provided me with so much. All the teachers have been nothing but supportive and encouraging. By pushing me to achieve, they’ve helped me realise the importance of being kind. There have been a tonne of challenges thrown my way during my time at Sunderland, and it’s far from over, but knowing I have support helps me push through.”
As Head Girl Shannon hopes to build on this Sunderland culture, ensuring every student across every year level feels supported and has always got someone to talk to.
“It has had such a positive impact on me, and I want everybody to be able to experience such a great environment.”
Those who have not yet met Shannon in the school grounds will undoubtedly have seen her on the sports field. While at ACG she’s been named Female Cross Country Champion (Year 9, 10 and 11), Female Athletics Champion (Year 10, 11 and 12) and Most Valuable Player in Touch (Year 10). A highly skilled netball player, she has immersed herself in the sport for the past ten years and in that time has played for the school, her club and the Netball Waitakere representative team.
“Ever since I was four, I’ve been playing sport. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. I love all sports. I also love the outdoors and will jump at any chance to participate in an adventurous activity or immerse myself in nature. Camping, coasteering, canyoning – I’m up for all of it!”
Since starting at ACG Sunderland in 2016, Shannon has gone from strength to strength and says she is amazed by how much she has learnt and grown in that time. Not only is she thriving academically and in her sporting endeavours, but she co-wrote, directed, and ran last year’s school play Lila, and has developed leadership capabilities that many twice her age still haven’t mastered.
“The leadership opportunities at ACG Sunderland are very well set out. I started out with relatively minor leadership roles such as class captain and sports captain, which led onto peer tutoring and associate house leader. I then moved to more impactful roles with a great deal of responsibility – sports coach, house leader, and this year Head Girl.
“Each year I have invested myself in a leadership role I could learn from, so that I can keep building my knowledge and experience and explore new ways of effectively supporting and encouraging those around me. When I found out I’d been chosen as Head Girl I was elated. All my efforts and dedication had been acknowledged. It has given me a title that is not just recognised in my form class, my netball team, or McDonald House, but across the whole school. That means all students know I am someone who they can ask for help and can feel comfortable relating to.”
Shannon’s unwavering desire to help others has not just been pivotal in her high school years – it also looks set to shape her future.
Next year, she hopes to study Engineering and Advanced Science (Chemistry) at the University of Auckland. Why? “What entices me is the fact that it’s hands-on, requires problem-solving, and is a way of benefitting others.”