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Robertson Scholarship winner excels in sport and music as well as studies

08 March 2022 | news

The teachers of this year’s Robertson Scholars Leadership Program winner don’t know how she fits in her many sporting and cultural achievements while also producing such outstanding academic results, but waking some weeks at 4am undoubtedly helps.

Robertson Scholarship winner Mercy Jones.

Mercy Jones, 17, graduated from New Plymouth Girls’ High School in November and with the support of her Robertson scholarship aims to study engineering at Duke University, one of the leading universities in the United States.

The activities in which Mercy excels include adventure racing and she recalls “running down a ridge of tussock, feeling the snow-capped alps on either side, watching the stars glitter and feeling the wind blow my hair. Moments like these have given me a deep love of nature. This love has motivated me to live a more sustainable lifestyle and work in the sustainability sector. I plan to use my skills and education to protect our natural environment by making more sustainable energy options accessible worldwide.

“Duke University will be an ideal place for me to study engineering and combine my passions for problem solving, the environment and leadership. I am very excited to be surrounded by the academic and high-achieving students at Duke.”

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program was established by American philanthropist Julian Robertson and funds young leaders from around the world who strive to make transformational contributions to society.

The scholarship supports four years of undergraduate study at either Duke or the nearby University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and recipients get to enjoy the facilities of both universities.

Mercy’s teachers describe her as an exceptional young adult with a high level of maturity and social responsibility. As well as her incredible natural ability, she has a rarely matched work ethic, with a genuine love of learning. This was demonstrated by her studying Russian through the University of Canterbury – Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha last year – simply because she wanted to expand her knowledge. She was graded A+. Mercy also took part in the university’s AIMS – Advancing in Mathematical Sciences programme.

Throughout her achievements, Mercy has remained humble, personable and always positive in her outlook on life, say her teachers. She was a popular student at New Plymouth Girls’ High School – a role model, respected by peers and teachers alike.

Mercy has received countless scholarships and awards in recognition of her academic accomplishments. She was part of New Plymouth Girls’ High School’s accelerated learning programme since Year 10 and the school’s deputy head girl and top overall scholar in Year 13, being named Dux Literati.

As a keen adventure racer, orienteer and cross-country runner, Mercy has, solo or as a team captain or member, won or been highly placed in many national championships. In 2019, she was selected to represent New Zealand at the Australian Schools Orienteering Championships.

Mercy is an accomplished pianist who has won or been highly placed in many awards either as a soloist or a group member. These include second at the International Great Composers Best Rachmaninoff Performance Competition; third in the New Zealand Junior Piano Competition; and first three times in the Taranaki Symphony Orchestra’s and its predecessor the New Plymouth Symphony Orchestra’s concerto competition. Last year, Mercy performed Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto 2 as an invited soloist with the orchestra.

Mercy is also founder of Connect2Grow, an organisation that brings young people into rest homes to perform music and connect with the residents. Since 2017, she has been class president of her church-based youth group.

John Taylor, Chair of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program Selection Committee for New Zealand, says: “As the Robertson Scholarship places huge emphasis on leadership and service, we felt Mercy would be an ideal choice – she will have much to offer to and gain from her Robertson.”

Applications for the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program are administered in New Zealand by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara. Details are on the program’s page on the UNZ website.