Tessa Gibbs, 17. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Helping our youth succeed

Emily Ireland

The odds have been stacked against Tessa Gibbs most of her life.

With parents “incapable” of looking after her, the 17-year-old has worked from a young age to keep herself afloat.

Now, with the support of Youth Service, she is on track to graduate from college at the end of this year – all the while living independently and holding down a job.

Based in Carterton, Youth Service works with young people not enrolled in education, employment, or training, and provides them with guidance, support, and encouragement to help them re-enter education or employment.

Tessa is one of more than 100 young people on Youth Service’s client list in Wairarapa.

“I’ve been in Youth Service since I was 16.

“When I first started school, I thought I was going to drop out the second I turned 16.

“But Youth Service helped keep me in school by giving me budgeting advice and helping me pay rent so I didn’t have to drop out and get a job just to live.”

Tessa said when she was younger and under the age of 16, she used to work at a dairy for $5 an hour – “that was just to feed myself at my parents’ because they were bad with money.”

Last year, she dropped off 50 CVs to “every place in Masterton” until she got another job.

She now works at CLM Masterton supervising and looking after children as they take part in activities and after-school care and holiday programmes.

This year, Tessa is going into Year 13 at Wairarapa College and hopes to study a certificate in early childhood education.

“I would like to be a teacher in a kindergarten and be able to inspire the next generation and help kids out like Youth Service has helped me.

“Youth Service has given me the opportunity to just be like any other kid and get the chances that I wouldn’t have got otherwise.

“They gave me my dreams and they gave me all the support I needed to chase them which was really cool of them.”

“There are so many kids who get kicked out of home young or they just don’t have support from their parents.

“Youth Service is there to support them.

“They send you to budgeting courses, help you get your licence, and just help you to grow up.”

Tessa said when she first got involved with Youth Service, they helped her get clothing “because I basically had no clothes”.

Tessa’s youth coach, and manager of Youth Service Tere Lenihan, said the organisation has become something of a “safe house” for young people.

“The key to our service is the relationship – that is the fundamental thing for all of us – the relationship we have with young people, and the relationship we have with other organisations.

“I don’t know how some of these young people live, but they do it and I’m really proud of them.”

To get in touch with Youth Service Wairarapa, contact Youth Service’s team leader Loraine Mitchell on 06 379 5407 extn: 714, or email lorrainem@waisct.org.nz