Wairarapa’s Community Driver Mentoring Programme has celebrated the milestone of helping 300 people get their driver’s licenses.
The programme, which has been operating for five years, matches up students with volunteer mentors who teach them to drive in one-hour weekly sessions.
As of August this year, it has helped 318 people pass their licenses, 243 high school students and 75 police referrals.
More than half of people have used their licenses to gain employment.
The programme owns five cars fitted with emergency brakes on the instructors’ side.
Wairarapa Road Safety Council Manager Bruce Pauling hosted the mentors yesterday for lunch to celebrate the milestone.
“The lifeblood of this programme is your wonderful mentors,” Pauling said.
“You teach the students, support them, and offer gems of wisdom.”
Pauling said the programme was helping teach young people safe habits, and by assisting people to drive legally, it was taking some pressure off the courts.
Carterton Mayor Ron Mark also acknowledged the mentors, removing his cowboy hat before taking the stand.
“I can only take my hat off to you,” Mark said.
“The first time you go out in the car, you’ll be able to see the fear in the student’s eyes as they grip the steering wheel.”
He said that the programme opened employment doors and helped take pressure off busy parents by empowering young people to transport themselves.
“Nothing like this happens without generous and capable people risking life and limb to help people,” he said.
Mentor Rob Cameron, a retired teacher and principal, said he had been mentoring since the start of the programme, usually once or twice a week.
Cameron said one of his best outcomes was from a Masterton student who was doing work experience in Featherston.
The student’s mum was driving him there in the morning, and he was returning on the bus.
After getting his license, he started driving there and was offered an apprenticeship.
“I’m enjoying working with the younger generation, helping them get further in their life and career,” Cameron said.