Class Acts

By Emma Perry ODT | Posted: Wednesday September 9, 2020

Congratulations to Cathy Zeng and Sophie Sun who are our 2020 Class Act recipients.

Class Act is a recognition of student excellence organised by the Otago Daily Times.  Every school is asked to nominate 2 students who have truly excelled.  Well done to our 2 outstanding young people for 2020.  See their impressive profiles below: 

Cathy Zeng

At 17 years old, Cathy Zeng has achieved things those her age dream of.

The Logan Park High School pupil is a university student studying economics and music, received three NZQA scholarships, in English, history and music, and has her ATCL diploma in piano.

She has received countless awards and recognition for musical performances, including piano, composition and songwriting, and is a top maths student in New Zealand.

Cathy was born in China and her family moved to New Zealand when she was 1 year old.

She attended Kaikorai Primary School and Balmacewen Intermediate.

A love of reading from a young age has contributed to her success, Cathy says.

"Reading builds up your vocabulary and viewpoint on different things."

"I love getting lost in a different universe and imagining different possibilities, but there’s also the exploration of big issues."

She hoped to go overseas to the United States for university to study economics, but Covid-19 had put a spanner in the works.

"We’ll see what happens next year."

Achievements: Prefect, drama, music, writing (2020); first-year music and economics papers, Otago University (2020); NZQA scholarships in English, history and music (2019) NCEA L1, 2, and 3 with excellence (2018–19). university entrance qualification (2019); 98th percentile SAT score (2020); junior Mathematics Competition top 30 nationally (2017); Australian Maths Competition distinction (2017, 2019); Victoria University CASIO Maths Competition top 200 (2019); distinctions in ICAS digital technologies, English, writing, maths (2016–19); Language Perfect gold award (2016); NZCT Chamber Music contest: highly commended (2018–20); best performance, NZ work (2017, 2019); best performance, original composition (2018–19); Smokefree RockQuest winner (2018) with band Solid Merit, regional finalist (2018–19); Robbie Rocks Dunedin youth finalist (2018); ATCL diploma performance piano (2017); Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival silver award (2017); NZSA youth mentorship programme shortlist (2019–20); DPACS Senior contemporary solo 2nd, baroque solo 3rd, recital very highly commended (2019); own selection commended (2019); awards for DPACS (2016-17); IRMT intermediate scholarship winner (2016–17); NZ composition winner (2016–17), baroque solo winner (2016–17); Celebration of a Century cup winner (2017); instrumental duet very highly commended (2017); IRMT instrumental scholarship 3rd, 2nd, commended (2017–19); IRMT senior composition award (2017); LPHS A girls volleyball team senior (2018–20); badminton Otago representative (2013–18).
Role model: Chloe Gong, a 21-year-old successful author from China and New Zealand
Hopes for the future: Study economics alongside continuing with music, drama and history.

Sophie Sun

As a university student while also a high school pupil, Sophie Sun does not have much spare time.

"I always have something to be done."

The 17-year-old Logan Park High School pupil achieved 97% in a second-year mathematics paper at the University of Otago this year, getting 96% in a first-year paper in maths at the University of Canterbury last year.

She received an Outstanding Scholarship in chemistry as a year 12 pupil and was told she was second in New Zealand for the subject.

"I really pushed for acceleration — especially for science — in my school, and I studied those scholarships and level 3 science subjects starting quite late, about three weeks into term 3 last year.

"I don't usually speak up for myself, but this process really helped me to gain confidence."

Sophie feels proud of herself for her achievements, particularly because she moved from China in 2014 and did not speak English before this.

"I’ve worked quite hard for everything."

Science began to really interest her in 2017, when she gained confidence in her English abilities.

Her other passion lies in piano, and she is grateful to her teacher, Tom McGrath, for showing her how to overcome challenges in piano and beyond.

Sophie enjoyed passing on her knowledge of piano to her younger brother, who is autistic.

Sophie hoped to go overseas for university next year, so was going to apply and "see what happens".

She was also considering taking a gap year to spend time on other activities such as volunteering.

"I’ve put a lot into my academic side over the past few years so it would be nice to do something different."

Achievements: Outstanding scholarship in chemistry (2019); chemistry olympiad, top 32 in country (2020); NZQA scholarship in biology, calculus and outstanding in chemistry (2019). University of Canterbury Math199 A+ (2019) University of Otago Math203 A+ (2020); scholarship chemistry and biology tutor; NCEA levels 1, 2, 3 endorsed with excellence (2018-19); level 3 calculus with excellence (2018); level 3 chemistry and level 3 physics with excellence (2019); Otago Science Fair Competition premier award and five excellence awards (2018); Casio Senior Math Competition top 100 (2019); University of Otago Junior Math Competition Top 100 (2017, 2018); ICAS Top 2% (2017); senior o'mathalon (3rd 2018, 4th 2019); SAT: 99th percentile for maths and 95th percentile for reading and writing; board of trustees student representative (2019); Southland nominee for PACANZ National Young Performer Awards for Piano (2020); IRMT Otago Branch instrumental scholarship (2017-18); organised Autism Awareness Concert, postponed (2020); Southland Instrumental Competition junior championship winner (2019); 1st in the novice class DPACS instrumental competition (2017); Chamber Music contest highly commended (2018-19); guest artist in the Dunedin Royal Male Choir Concert and High Achievers’ Concert (2019); 1st chamber music group Otago district, bronze winner chamber music contest (2020).
Role models: My mum and piano teacher Tom McGrath.
Hopes for the future: Go to university overseas or take a gap year and focus on volunteering.