Class Act: South Otago High School

James Briones

South Otago High School head boy James Briones puts his drive for success down to his migration at a young age.

Arriving from the Philippines aged 7, the outgoing youngster determined to make the most of every opportunity his adoptive country offered.

James’ list of achievements speaks to this immersion in his community, as he approaches each new challenge with equal enthusiasm.

His breadth of interests means he is yet to fully decide on a future path, he says.

“I plan to take a gap year next year.

“I’ve got a few ideas of what I could do — maybe something in engineering or tech, or perhaps architecture — but a year gaining work experience and reflecting on my future will help.”

As the first in his immediate family to attend university, his Class Act nomination was greeted with shock, he said.

“Everyone was pretty pleased. It was a big surprise for all of us, but I guess school saw something in me.”

A strong all-rounder, James takes as much pleasure in an hour on the badminton court as a day spent studying.

He also enjoys the limelight, and takes the stage regularly in singing and other performance arts.

“I had to MC the Filipino Clutha District Christmas Celebration in 2019. That was pretty nerve-racking, but I still enjoyed it once I was into it.”

Aware of the benefits he has gained at school, James tries to give a little in return.

“I’m proud to be head boy.

“One of the highlights for me is being able to organise student events. It’s just one small way to be able to give something back after five years.”

Achievements: NCEA levels 1 and 2 endorsed with excellence (2018-19); Hands-On at Otago physics programme; Otago University Science Academy programme; Australian Mathematics Competition distinction (2017); SOHS prizes (2019): excellence awards in chemistry, digital technology, mathematics and statistics and physics, academic blue (2018-19); speech competition winner (2015-17); F & E Cooke Scholarship (2019); Morrison-Palmer Cup (2019); South Otago Badminton Association men’s doubles handicaps B grade and championship C grade winner (2020); SOHS badminton (2017-20); SOHS volleyball (2017-18); Young Enterprise (2019); vocal group member (2018-20); debating (2019-20); Envirogroup (2019-20); SADD committee member (2019) and leader (2020); 40 Hour Famine organising committee (2019) and leader (2020); senior production (2019); bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards (2017-19); Salvation Army volunteer (2019-20); SOHS head boy (2020); Clutha District Youth Council (2020); peer support leader (2020); KickStart Breakfast leader (2020); canteen worker (2017-20); Greenpark leader (2020).
Role model: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, for her leadership during the international Covid-19 crisis.
Hopes for the future: To become a software developer or architect.

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