Charlie Toumadj is a busy person. On top of surf lifesaving, netball, A-Level classes at school, Duke of Edinburgh and working at AUT Millennium, she’s now added Head Girl of Pinehurst School to her list of responsibilities.
We meet with Charlie at 7.30am on a Monday. Over a quick coffee, she tells us she’s off to netball trials before classes start, then midway through the day, she and her Business and Economics classmates are flying to Wellington. There, they headed to Parliament, debated in the debate chamber, and observed Question Time, before visiting universities and businesses in the capital. We’re amazed she had time for us, but Charlie is used to keeping many balls in the air. “I think I’ve got the balance of it now,” she laughs.
It’s been a five year process to become Head Girl. After being inspired by older student leaders in her first year at Pinehurst, Charlie set her sights on giving back to the school in the same way. “It’s always been my biggest goal to become Head Girl. I was in the Student Council from Year 9 to Year 12, worked hard on my learning and Cambridge results, and had lots of extra-curriculars as well.” Everything came together in her application last year. “I poured my heart and soul into that letter, everything that I would be willing to do in the role, and what it would mean to me. I reiterated how I wanted to be an inspirational leader, and have girls look up to me and aspire to be leaders themselves.” Following an interview and leadership camp, Charlie was thrilled to found out had been successful. She’s calling on examples set by previous Head Girls, cites her teachers as leadership inspirations, and is grateful for the supportive partnership she has with Head Boy Jaewoo Son.
The Toumadj family have long been part of the AUT Millennium community. Her family are members of the Gym, and Charlie herself learned to swim here. The circle of life has seen her return to the Swim School, where she’s been teaching the next generation for almost two years. “I love the bonds we make with the kids,” she says. “It’s really important for me to remember that each child is different, and you have to change your teaching and communication style towards that child. It’s kind of like a bit of a puzzle, what can I put in place to help this child learn and bring their skills up.”
Rachael Jones, Swim School Operations Manager, played an important role in Charlie’s preparation for her role. “I asked Rachael if she could tell me what she thought I did well in my employment interview, and what she thought I could work on,” she recalls. “She’s been so supportive of me, and my extra-curriculars, just so helpful. Everyone here has done what they can to bring me forward as a swim teacher and a person, and I really appreciate that.” Rachael wasn’t surprised with Charlie’s success, given what she’s seen her display as a Swim Instructor. “When Charlie is teaching children, she has the ability to bring the best out of every child in her class,” she says. “She’s a very good communicator, has huge amount of initiative and the ability to stay focused, which are all great traits of leadership.”
After her first term as Head Girl, Charlie is able to reflect on how she and the student leadership team have performed so far. “After such an interrupted year last year, we’re really trying to do little things to unite us,” she tells. “We’re focusing on mental health and making sure everyone is coping with their school work. One of our projects is Motivation Monday, where we are trying to unite everyone at the start of the week.” There’s been the biggest athletics day Pinehurst has ever had (held at AUT Millennium’s stadium) which was full of noise and colour of competing houses, bringing a satisfying validation to the leadership team.
There’s also been the touching and fulfilling realisation of inspiring others. “Having that respect of my peers and people up to five years younger than me has been really cool. I’ve had girls come up and ask advice on how to become a prefect, and another asked about getting involved in surf lifesaving. That’s been really cool for me, I love helping people.”
When she finishes school this year, Charlie intends to study business and history at university, with a dream of being museum curator or archeologist. She’s keenly interested in research, and doesn’t rule out a doctorate degree. And with her proven determination in achieving her goals, who would bet against Dr Charlie Toumadj?