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Award winners . . . Clock wise from bottom left are Taylah Friend (17) of St Peter’s College, Max Balloch (17) and Ella Harrex (18) of Gore High, the cardboard Prime Minster, Sydney Robertson (17) of Blue Mountain College, Joshua Kotkamp (17) of St Peter’s College and Olivia Reihana (17) of Blue Mountain College.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the guest of honour at last Wednesday’s Class Act award ceremony in Gore, albeit as a cardboard cutout.

Blue Mountain College principal Lindy Cavanagh-Monaghan said the award ceremony, held annually to honour top high school achievers in their final year, usually took place in Dunedin.

“The students thought we were going to Dunedin right up until the previous Friday,” Ms Cavanagh-Monaghan said.

“Normally, the Prime Minister comes and presents the awards.”

However, this year the usual ceremony had not been possible due to the election being rescheduled and the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.

To avoid disappointing pupils, she decided to organise a last-minute ceremony in Gore at The Thomas Green.

“I decided to recreate the vibe with our own local schools.

“There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.”

The prime ministerial cutout was repurposed from an earlier year when a pupil had been absent for the Class Act awards.

The biggest challenge of organising the last-minute ceremony was getting the pretend Prime Minister’s head to look proportional, she said

“We had to get a slightly bigger one.”

Ms Cavanagh-Monaghan had to print one from the internet at the last minute.

The pupils had lunch together and their families attended the ceremony.

The awards were presented along with gifts of flowers and chocolate.

Cardboard Jacinda presided over the event, starring in a group photo.

“We recreated the traditional staircase shot.”

It was important to continue with Class Act despite the challenges, Ms Cavanagh-Monaghan said.

“It’s important for students to have this recognition when they’ve been working hard all their school lives. I think they loved it.”

St Peter’s College pupil Taylah Friend said she was pleased Ms Cavanagh-Monaghan had put the event together despite the difficult times.

“I think it was amazing,” Taylah said.

“I’m very thankful; it’s very nice to be recognised in that way.”