Byron’s Cara Maku ticked all the boxes when the selection panel considered applications for the 2012 Griffith Business School Rotary Youth Leadership Award.

The lasting impression she had left on her local community offered proof positive that the 19-year-old first-year business student (pictured) was the ideal candidate for the week-long personal development and leadership program at Camp Duckalong, north of Brisbane.

From the age of 14 Cara emerged as a prominent example to young people in Byron through her membership of local organisations like Byron Bay Historical Society, Byron Bay Theatre Company and the Student Representative Council at Mullumbimby High School

She was a founding member of the Byron Shire Youth Council and by 2011 she was an obvious choice for Byron Shire Council Young Citizen of the Year. Among her roles was the mentoring of young people.

She also found herself within 100 metres of Pope Benedict XV1, “a surreal moment” in Spain during World Youth Day in 2011.

“I pretty much became addicted to volunteering,” Cara says. “I learned to communicate with basically all of the community, from the oldest to the youngest.

“I loved to get involved and then to stand back at the end of a project and look at what I had achieved. There were times when I asked myself ‘Am I completely out of my depth here?’”

When Brisbane and life at Griffith University called, Cara received widespread plaudits including one from Byron Shire Council mayor Jan Barham who compared her pride for Cara like that for a daughter.

Cara started a degree in Politics, Asian Studies and International Relations at the start of 2012, with her immediate focus on a career in human rights.

“I have a determination to stay true to who I am. I just want to help people. If I can make one person’s day slightly better, then it’s been a very successful day.”

A chance to develop her leadership skills appealed when she found out about and applied for the Griffith Business School Rotary Youth Leadership Award.

“All applications were of a very high standard,” Professor Lorelle Frazer, Dean (Learning and Teaching), Griffith Business School, said. “Cara’s application, background, career path and future leadership qualities were an exceptional fit with Rotary International’s ethos and the values of the Griffith Business School.”

At the camp she joined 50 peers from southeast and regional Queensland for a life-changing week.

“The people I met and experiences I had have completely revolutionised me as a person, changing my perspective on, and given me the skills to take on the world.”

Completion of the course has also opened the door for Cara to represent Griffith University as an ambassador at a range of social events.

“I’m exciting about properly representing the great university that Griffith is,” she said.