University of Waikato Hillary scholar Kaylee Bird will swap New Zealand summer for a trek up the Himalayas as she and three other Step Higher Award recipients head to Nepal next month.
Following in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps, they will be trekking around the Khumbu Valley (including part of Mount Everest), fundraising for the Himalayan Trust, and visiting local schools and hospitals.
Kaylee first heard about the Step Higher Award as a new student at the Hillary Induction. Now, going into her fifth year of law and management study, she says she felt confident enough to apply for the Step Higher Award.
“I know I’ll be pushed out of my comfort zone – I’m looking forward to experiencing the Nepali way of life and interacting with the different communities there. I think the experience will be reflective, so I’m excited to come back and see how I coped,” she says.
Kaylee is already underway with her fundraiser – teaming up with local and national businesses to sell raffle tickets, and setting up a Give a Little page.
She’s especially thankful to the University’s High Performance Student Scholarship Manager Greg O'Carroll. Greg has guided Kaylee throughout her time at university and was vital in giving her the push she needed to apply for the Step Higher Award. And through the Hillary Scholarship, Kaylee gained access to leadership roles and volunteering opportunities such as the HeadzUp Programme, where she spoke as an ‘inspiring leader’ to Year 13 students from around the North Island.
Kaylee has been dancing since she was four years old, mainly classical and contemporary dance. In 2014, she was offered places at Queensland Dance School of Excellence, Queensland University of Technology – Fine Arts Dance Course, and Tanya Pearson's Classical Coaching Academy in Sydney.
She spent a term at the Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy in Australia, turning down a partial scholarship and an invitation to audition for Ajkun City Ballet in New York to return to her studies at the University of Waikato. In 2017, she attended the World Championship of Performing Arts in Los Angeles.
Kaylee says she’s pretty new to trekking, but she’s looking forward to the challenge. “The closest thing I have ever done is school camp, which is worlds away from trekking to base camp, so I’m in the dark with what to expect. My dance training has given me a quick recovery rate, but I have been training my endurance at the Hakarimata Track.”
Kaylee encourages students to expand their interests while they are studying. “Work, volunteer, join clubs, or pursue hobbies,” Kaylee says. “It can be difficult to manage your time, but it's worth it – just make sure you enjoy your uni experience and develop your skills.”