From small town to international award winner

Never forget where you come from, that's the message from Sarah-Michelle Washer whose successes have led to an international award.


The 24-year-old former Ngaruawahia High School student received the Jane M Klausman Women in Business Award from women's service and advocacy organisation, Zonta International.


In addition to the $US 7000 award, she also received  financial awards from both Zonta Hamilton-Waikato and Zonta NZ.


"It's a testament to not only to the hard work I've put in, but the people who have helped me get here... to the women in my life," Washer said.


One of those women is her mother.


"She's definitely always encouraged me to do my best , not only in university but outside of university."


Others include her high school principal Robyn Roa, school mentors and those from her church.


Washer now works at Auckland law firm Russell McVeagh as part of the competition law team representing large corporations for commercial transactions.


It follows her Waikato University Bachelor of Management Studies with Honours and a Bachelor of Laws with Honours majoring in Strategic Management and Law.


Washer has also spent time in Denmark, China and South Korea for business-related research.


"In South Korea I was able to complete a research project there on the schooling system."


She used her experience growing up in Ngaruawahia to show the contrast between New Zealand and South Korean school systems. 


No matter where she goes though, there's always a desire to give back to the community she grew up in.


In 2015 she was part of the high school's Board of Trustees.


And during that same year she co-founded the IT.U Learning Charitable Trust which seeks to aid the transition from high school to further study or employment through school-business partnerships.


Washer said for those in Ngaruawahia that had aspirations of their own, her message was 'to just go for it'. 


"Believe in yourself, you have so much potential to bring to the world that some other people don't necessarily have and people can learn from.


"I think at the end of the day it's more the confidence that there is something special growing up in a small community… it's something special we can bring to the table."


Article by Caitlin Wallace/Fairfax NZ

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