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Ashley Hawkes is a Trident High School graduate (2001) from Matata who went on to study Performing and Screen Arts at Unitec in Auckland. He now works as an actor and director in Sydney.

"My years at Trident were some of the best of my life. I was lucky enough to find not just one or two teachers that would go over and beyond their duty but many. It is a school that really cares about each and every student. I always felt welcomed and encouraged to excel in anything and everything I wanted to have a go at. Their elective program filled my afternoons with surfing, music and theatre and made me genuinely love being at school. I found the transition from a small country environment to a big town school initially terrifying as a third former but the peer support programme in those early days ensured I settled quickly and made friends. The focus on respect for others made a lasting impact on my approach to all my work to this day. Being a prefect and running peer-support exercises in my later years gave me a perfect insight into my own capabilities to help others and to lead by example. In the classroom I was scared of History because I didn't want to remember dates but came to love the stories I found there. Geography trips were awesome and I still love rocks. I always hated Maths but the teacher also ran the surf elective so I learnt to do my taxes. English was perhaps my favourite, I found the texts, plays and films really engaging. I loved the conversations that were sparked in that room. I went from having no musical knowledge at age 14 to passing school cert music and playing trumpet in the school band by age 15. We wrote our own shows in the drama room and took them to local primary schools (something I'd later do professionally). There were lunchtime concerts, skateboarding slams, football tournaments, surf camps, volleyball trips but also really special cultural experiences like welcoming guests with powhiri which gave me a sense of place and mana. Performing in the school production of The Three Musketeers gave me confidence as I grew into a young man and was encouraged to audition for drama school. In my final year I suffered a severe illness and missed a whole term of school. Without the support of the teachers which made sure I had grading allowances and could do some study at home, I may never have got the bursary passes to get into Unitec. I am forever grateful to each and every one of them."

Ashley has performed in numerous stage shows throughout New Zealand, Australia and the US. His achievements include:

Performing at the Sydney Opera House

Touring the world in a stage show he wrote and built

Winning numerous theatre awards

Winning best short film at the Berlin Film Festival

Winning Straight 8, a global short film challenge Shooting a Corona commercial with the world's best surfers

Playing a killer in Australian TV series Bite Club

Shooting music videos for numerous bands

Directing theatre shows in Auckland and Sydney

Shooting commercials all over the world for clients that include: KitKat, Chicken Tonight, Hahn Superdry, Corona, Nissan, Cadbury, LTSA NZ, Subway, Barista Bros, Campbell's Soup, Lynx and Holden.

Watch Ashley in action here

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