Whangarei Girls' High School student Rachel Boyd impressed the judges in Wellington on Wednesday with an emotive speech about Victoria Cross winner James Ward.
Miss Boyd, 18, spoke about how the men who served our country in the World Wars were around the same age as herself.
She highlighted Mr Ward's heroism and contrasted it with the new experiences people his age are going through around her.
"These young men and women weren't deciding if their duvet spread matched their curtains, they were deciding whether or not to stand up and fight for New Zealand in a country miles away from home where life and death wasn't a sure thing each day," she said in her speech.
Mr Ward was a 22-year-old Wanganui school teacher when he fought for his
country in WWII.
Rachel was one of eight Year 12 and 13 students from around the country to speak in the national final after winning her regional final.
The students had six to eight minutes to talk on the subject of "New
Zealanders at War".
RSA Chief Executive Stephen Clarke said the competition was a wonderful
demonstration of young Kiwis honouring the sacrifice and commitment made by so many before them.
"Wartime must seem very distant to our young people today, but it's great
to see that these students appreciate the courage and commitment of those who served for us," he said.
Miss Boyd was also awarded a $1000 travel fund, a trophy, a laptop and digital camera.