Youth Services successes and the team behind them – Abby Cooper, Andre Du Preez, Leoni Du Preez, Jemma Grantham, Brooklyn Norman, Loraine Mitchell, and Odhnn Wilkison. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

GRACE PRIOR
grace.prior@age.co.nz

Brooklyn Norman and Odhnn Wilkison have turned their lives around with the help of Wairarapa Youth Services, which has aided them through education and into a better living situation.

Norman and Wilkison both had a challenging start to life, but now, at 17 years old, they had finished an NCEA Level 3 building course through Ucol and had gained employment at McDonald’s in Masterton.

Both hoped to move into a building apprenticeship in the new year.

When recounting the past two years, Norman described his experience as a “struggle but with really great strides and experience; hard, but really rewarding”.

In a release earlier this year, Statistics New Zealand stated about one in five New Zealand children, or 235,400, lived in relative poverty, after housing costs had been deducted.

Norman said he was in the worst place of his life when he came to Wairarapa Youth Services.

“I was friends with someone who had recently left Wairarapa Youth Services as a success, who was working in the industry, he impressed me and made me want to do something else with my life,” Norman said.

“I wasn’t going to school anymore. He had found me in one of my darkest times and helped youth services, and my grandma, pull me out of the world I was in and into a new one.”

Norman said it “wasn’t easy coming out of everything that was going on, coming out of a bit of substance abuse to family dramas, homes and school – any other thing you want to throw in there, it was there”.

Through Wairarapa Youth Services, Norman learned “you have to look around and figure out what you want and where you want to be, and how to get there before it’s too late to get there”.

Norman said he was now in the best position he had ever been in his life, having moved away from challenging environments and through education.

“I’ve been helped to see a bit more of an adult mindset of how you’re supposed to go about things, process the world, make your decisions, and how you affect other people and yourself,” Norman said.

Wilkison also felt that he was the best he’d ever been, “now that I have a job this is the best I’ve ever felt about myself and how the world is around me”.

Wilkison struggled with college from day one and said he had the lowest attendance in his entire school at one point.

With a push from Wairarapa Youth Services, Wilkison was allowed to leave school at 15 and a half years old and studied his Achievement course for NCEA Level 1, where he met Norman.

Both Norman and Wilkison said they suddenly had much higher attendance when they began their new course and had the motivation to learn and succeed; that motivation never stopped.

“My attendance went straight back up, I was at course every day and was working hard to get my stuff sorted,” Wilkison said.

Similarly, Norman said, “there’s a big difference between ditching school every day and making an effort to show up every day to get your education, one is much easier than the other”.

Wairarapa Youth Services youth coach Abby Cooper said Norman and Wilkison both wanted their education, even though the mainstream education system was not working for them.

Wairarapa Youth Services team leader Loraine Mitchell said that “at the end of the day, they have done all of this themselves”.

When asked where they would like to see themselves in five years, Norman and Wilkison both had big dreams.

“In five years, I want to be working towards owning my own building company; you have to spend about four years as an apprentice to be a qualified builder. Once I’ve been working for someone for long enough, I’d like to try to take over their business if they’re retiring,” Norman said.

Wilkison wanted to be in a management role at McDonald’s, owning it, or working towards owning his own building business.

McDonald’s Masterton owners Andre and Leoni Du Preez said they were “very proud that we have employed Odhnn and Brooklyn, we’re proud of their journey, and we are here to support them, we wish them only the best”.

Norman and Wilkison had both been working with Wairarapa Youth Services for about two years and had come leaps and bounds from where they were before.

Wairarapa Youth Services offers youth coaching and mentoring to help young people who are struggling into education, training or work-based learning, as well as providing youth guidance and support towards an independent future.

Wairarapa Youth Services can be contacted on 06 379 5407 185, or found on 185 High St South, Carterton.



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