Alumni Award

Alumni Leader of the Year

About the Leadership Award

The Alumni Leader of the Year is back, and will be awarded to a CELF alumni among the six nominated this year for their outstanding leadership in the Waikato. 

This leadership award recognises the positive impact and contribution they have had on their own organisation and community, exemplifying the mission and values of CELF.

  • Nominees must be CELF Elevate alumni

  • Anyone may submit nominations for the award

  • Only an individual is eligible for this award.

  • Nominees may self-nominate

This year's Leader of the Year Award will be announced and presented  on the 3rd of November 2023 at the CELF Class of 2023 Graduation.

Award Guidelines

Nominees must be CELF Elevate alumni.

Anyone may submit nominations for the award.

Only an individual is eligible for this award.

Nominees may self-nominate.

Each candidate will be judged for the leadership award initially on the following primary factors:

  • Substantive participation and leadership in the Waikato region, that exemplified CELF’s mission and values.

  • Evidence of impact on and engaging others as a result of this leadership.

  • Contributions considered to have had an impact in the Waikato community.

  • Leadership demonstrated in organisations current or previous.

In addition, the Leadership Award Panel will look for evidence that supports:

  • Breadth of community engagement and impact.

  • Leadership in addressing issues, influencing change, or new directions from the perspective of CELF’ s mission and values.

Alumni Leader of the Year 2022

Kylie Leonard is CELF's Alumni Leader of the Year 2022.  She was sponsored onto the CELF Elevate Leadership Programme by Tompkins Wake, as NZ Dairy Woman Network Community Leader of the Year in 2018. Since graduating from The Elevate Leadership Programme in 2019, Kylie has been on a leadership trajectory.

Kylie is a dedicated Mum, wife, and community leader. She is an experienced director, rural professional, a farmer, governance specialist leader and mentor. She is a member/chair of multiple boards in the community, providing guidance and leadership. She was a finalist in this year’s Women on Boards, retained her seat as Taupo district a counsellor and just announced a recipient of a Nuffield Scholarship.

Kylie Leonard

Kylie Leonard

Kylie says ”if I want to see change it is up to me to be part of making that change happen!”

Alumni Leader of the Year 2022 Nominees

Brett Maber

Executive Director ar Power Farming

Brett saw a need for a rugby competition to replace Gwynne Shield for intermediate aged children. 
He worked extensively with WRU to produce the Power Farming Cup, which enabled rugby opportunities for hundreds of Kiwi Kids this winter. Power Farming was one of the first new rugby competitions played under the Sport NZ Balance with better principles, making it the best rugby experience kids have received in many years.
He is innovative; roll the sleeves up and muck in; first there last and to leave every weekend, ensuring set up and pack down and smooth running of the competition.

Ellie Wilkinson

Operations Manager at Hamilton Multicultural Services

Ellie has a history of working in the non-profit sector in management and leadership roles.
She is committed to the Waikato and values the diverse cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, and skills that newcomers and existing inhabitants bring to the region.
Ellie was instrumental in the development of a leadership programme – Flourish- for ethnic women in the Waikato.
She has foresight – identifying the need for an Ethnic Health Hub as part of the Covid-19 response; is Innovative.
Ellie works tirelessly at HMS Trust as Community Development Partner to support migrants and former refugees to settle successfully in the Waikato.

Holly Snape

Chief Executive at Community Waikato

As a member of multiple boards, Holly has a critical role to play in building capabilities of community organisations across the Waikato and connecting many communities together.

She is passionate about developing the leaders in the community sector, which is evident in the affordable PD that CW provides across the Waikato.

She participates in the community development in all levels of the Waikato society, including the Waikato Plan.

Jane Searle

Chief Executive at Child Matters

Through Jane's leadership, Child Matters has become the sector expert and leading voice for change.
The issue of Mandatory Training for people that work with children is being led by Jane and Child Matters. This significant impact in the Waikato and Aotearoa.
Jane has participated in a number of media interviews over the last 12 months where she has been sort after for her sector expertise and independent comments.
Jane has led the development and execution of the strategic plan for Child Matters, which included delivery of sector leading online training programs.
Her leadership of "protecting our people", "fight for our people" and her organisational agility to deliver it.

Kate Rawnsley

General Manager Commercial at Chiefs

As a member of multiple boards and co-founder of WiRA (Women in Rugby Aotearoa), Kate advocates for the Club, all women within the rugby ecosystem and is the Programme Director for the new women's team at the Chiefs Rugby Club and WIRA.
She has advocated for the Board to create a Women's Rugby Sub-Committee; enabled two single mothers keep playing and being paid during the Covid restriction days; worked with Moana Pasifika & NZ Rugby to allow them to introduce a team into Aupiki.
Kate’s goal is to have women in all aspects of rugby be referred to as a Coach, not a female Coach, a Board member, not a female board member. She is working hard to achieve parity between the men's and women's game.

Kylie Leonard


Experienced director, rural professional, governance specialist, leader and mentor with a hands-on demonstrated history of working in the primary industries.
Kylie is a member/chair of multiple boards in the community, helping provide guidance and leadership, Women on Boards Finalist, Taupo district, and Fonterra councillor.
She was a speaker at the Momentum event, showing how leadership has a big impact in numerous roles.
She gives her time to the community as well as enterprise and always makes time for people. 
She says “if I want to see change, it is up to me to be part of making that change happen.
She has also applied for Nuffield Scholarship.

Our 2020 Alumni Leader of the Year

Rachel Karalus

Our inaugral recipent of the Alumni Leader of the Year Award Leaupepe Rachel Karalus - CEO K’aute Pasifika  was was recognised for her leadership on Friday 20 November 2020 graduation.

Watch her acceptance speech here.

Pictured: Rachel Karalus, CEO - K’aute Pasifika (left), Tania Witheford, CELF - Executive Director (right)


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