Waikato youth worker Sharnay Cocup won the Women of Influence 2017 young leader award
Youth worker Sharnay Cocup never expected to be considered influential.
But the 22-year-old wants other young women to know that "dreams can come true, if you pursue it and make it happen".
Cocup spoke at an event in Auckland on Thursday night to mark the opening of nominations for the 2018 Women of Influence awards.
She won the award for her determination to inspire troubled youths in her hometown of Taupiri, Waikato.
Former prime minister Helen Clark won a lifetime achievement award at the Women of Influence awards in 2017.
She is now the chairwoman of her local school's parent teacher association.
Cocup said influential women gave others the "knowledge and power to be something, even if they are not".
The Women of Influence awards recognise influential women across 10 categories, including business, charity and public policy.
It aims to highlight the contribution women are making to New Zealand's growth and development.
Candidates are judged on their vision, leadership, innovation, impact, and action in and beyond their field.
In 2017, My Food Bag co-founder Cecilia Robinson won the supreme award, while former prime minister and United Nations development programme administrator Helen Clark received a lifetime achievement award.
Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy told the 700-plus 2017 awards audience that "influence can be many things but, used as a force for good, it can change the world".
This year's awards commemorate 125 years since women were granted the right to vote in New Zealand.
The theme – 'The next 125 years; where to from here?' – highlights what women could achieve in the future.
The Women of Influence awards are sponsored by Westpac and Stuff.