Hawke's Bay has many well-known features but it also has some hidden gems that even locals don't know much about. We are searching for those tiny bits of magic. They could be people who are quietly doing wonderful things, businesses or tourism ventures taking off or undiscovered slices of paradise. In this series, Hawke's Bay Today celebrates the unsung successes in our region.
It is a modest cluster of buildings in a small Central Hawke's Bay township, but Elsthorpe School is not somewhere to be overlooked.
The small operation, with a roll of just 40 students, has produced a success story that is the talking point of the tight-knit rural community.
Holly MacDonald, 17, and Marcus Yule, 16,had only one other classmate when they left their primary school. This year, the pair walked through the front gates of Havelock North High School as the leaders of 900 students.
When Holly and Marcus left Elsthorpe School they were among just three of the same age - all of whom have gone into leadership roles in their senior years.
"I would say it's probably the teachers there," said Marcus. "We always had pretty good direction and were encouraged to give everything a go. They were always pretty enthusiastic - you were always involved in everything.
"Some people might think it is disadvantaging for whatever reason, maybe that we have less opportunities at a country school, but that's not what we found, I think you had just as much."
Principal at the time, Beverley Robinson, said Holly and Marcus were a product of the supportive school community. "Elsthorpe is a small school so to have two children come out of that who are both head boy and head girl at the same high school is pretty amazing," she said.
The school curriculum involved a lot of hands-on learning that relied on parent and family help, and small numbers meant students had no choice but to take on leadership roles.
"Even at an early age they showed a lot of responsibility and a lot of initiative and were very, very caring kids," she said.
They have both achieved impressive academic results with Holly's NCEA Level 1 and 2 results both endorsed with Excellence, and Marcus achieving Excellence at Level 1, and Merit at Level 2.
Current principal at Elsthorpe School, Hayden Kennedy, said the culture of the school meant young children always had role models in the older students, and went on to complete that cycle.
"The biggest plus is, I think, how the older ones take care and look after the younger ones. They really take care of the young ones and encourage them and make sure they are really positive role models so when the younger ones come through they emulate that."
Starting at such a big high school was daunting, but Holly said sport - a big part in their early schooling - helped them mix with their peers.
She still plays cricket, for which she represented Central Districts. Marcus has played hockey for Hawke's Bay.
"Playing lots of sport lets you meet lots of people and you make friends pretty easily," she said. "Also being on farms and having a lot of tasks you have to do teaches you pretty good skills for high school."
Said Marcus: "We were kind of friends with everyone, so when we came to high school we just tried to get to know everyone again."
Havelock North High School principal Greg Fenton, a country-school kid himself, said the pair's leadership qualities stood out.
"They are involved in a lot of things and I suppose at a small school they get exposed to a lot of different parts, or all parts, of the school. I have only known them six months but even in that short space of time I have known them as really neat kids."