Seventeen-year-old student Olivia Ward has been awarded a $360,000 hockey scholarship to attend Providence College, a prestigious university in the United States of America.
She was one of the only students to receive a full hockey scholarship, which will help pay her tuition of $60,000 a year plus living and study expenses.
Olivia set her sights on an American university after a recruitment agent tapped her on the shoulder during a game in Hawke’s Bay at the age of 15.
“I never thought about studying overseas until she came up to me after the game and gave me her business card,” Olivia said.
“From that moment, I was obsessed with going to university in America and becoming a student athlete who are like celebrities over there.”
Olivia is no stranger to the limelight when it comes to sporting success. The former Sports Prefect of Woodford House was selected for the Central U21 Hockey team at just 17 years old. She is also a member of the Central U18 Hockey team who placed 2nd at nationals this year.
Her long term goal is to don the Black Sticks uniform and she hopes her international experience will secure her a place in the national team.
Throughout her final year at Woodford House, Olivia woke up at 5.30am and Skyped coaches before attending training followed by a full day of school.
“The time difference made it difficult but I was so determined that I would get up while the rest of my family were asleep and talk to coaches for about an hour. I also made an 8-minute video montage of my games so they could see what I was like on the field.”
Several Ivy leagues, including Yale and Harvard universities, approached Olivia for her sporting talent but she was unable to continue with them after falling short of their SAT benchmarks.
“The SAT system is so different to the New Zealand NCEA system.”
Although the setbacks were disappointing, they only made Olivia more determined to reach her goal.
Now she is reaping the rewards. In addition to financial support, Olivia will have access to a $100 million sports institute, a range of medical experts, private tutors for her academics and free sports gear, including clothing sponsored by Nike.
Olivia credits Woodford House and the support of her parents Ana and Matt Ward for shaping her as a person as well as an athlete.
“You can be good at sport and good at academics, but there is a third dimension that universities are looking for and that is personality. Woodford has helped me develop people skills, instill values and gain confidence to put myself out there.”
She encouraged younger students to broaden their horizons because although the universities in New Zealand are good, the opportunities overseas are great, she said.