Inspiring Future Leaders at WIO

by Bree Arnott

Our future leaders were brought together in the school holidays from across Nelson and Tasman to attend an Inspiring Leaders programme at Whenua Iti Outdoors. 

This was the first time the programme has been run, thanks to the funding from Tasman District & Nelson Councils who gave Year 12 students from around the region the opportunity to develop their leadership skills. The students were identified by their schools as having the potential to take up school or community leadership positions.  Students who participated in the programme came from Motueka High School, Golden Bay High School, Collingwood Area School, Waimea College, Nayland College and Nelson College. “It was great to see the positive response from schools to the programme. We know that Covid-19 has highlighted the need to provide as many opportunities for our rangatahi to build their confidence, leadership & resilience and this programme is certainly helping to achieve that,” says Mark Bruce-Miller, General Manager of WIO.   

Day One – Building a sense of self

The course focused on the development of key skills to enable students to feel confident and inspired to take up future leadership positions. The three-day programme led by Whenua Iti instructor Joni Tomsett, who has a passion for youth leadership, kicked off with some fun Adventure Based Learning games for the students to get to know each other. They were then put through their paces on the high ropes course. ” High rope elements are a challenge for most people and put most students out of their comfort zone. We had a conversation about how it feels to be out of our comfort zone and how we can help center ourselves in that situation through our mental fortitude and then practiced it through the variety of different high rope elements that we have at Whenua Iti. I was exceptionally proud of every single student as they willingly challenged themselves and then exceeded their first expectations”, says Joni.   

Students were introduced to the range of leadership styles, which gave them an insight to themselves as leaders as well as how to recognise the strengths of their team. Armed with this knowledge they then put it all into practice in team-based activities and challenges. “I have learnt that you don’t have to be the noisiest person or loudest person to be a good leader,” noted one of the students, Eden (Waimea College). The students all reflected that they have come away with a greater understanding of themselves and with new skills that will help them be better leaders in the future.  

Day Two – Building a sense of community

We are grateful to the expertise of Stew Robertson from Abel Tasman Eco Tours, who boated the students into the Abel Tasman National Park to learn about the history and unique biodiversity of this stunning coastline and the various conservation projects that have been initiated to preserve it. This trip helped to deepen students’ understanding of the connectedness in the natural world, the implications of our actions and how collaboration and working together is more important than the act of an individual.  

Day Three – Putting it into action

Students then had the chance to work together at Community House and convert their passion to action! With tools in hand they helped to clear an overgrown border of the building that needed attention but was too costly without volunteer help. The students relished the opportunity to be active in the community and one student reflected that she felt the shared project really brought them together.  

“The course has been fantastic….it just needs to be longer!” – Louie, Motueka High School  

“The students were inspiring,” says Joni. “They were all amazing individuals and the fact that they came during their school holidays speaks for itself.  I know that they’ll flourish in the leadership positions that they want to peruse for 2021 and I have confidence that we’ll be seeing a lot more from these charismatic and aware, young people in the future.” 

Thanks to the Nelson City Council & Tasman District Council for funding this programme.  

Thank you also to Stew Robertson from Abel Tasman Eco Tours for sharing his knowledge with the students, to Rae from Community House for connecting the students with the opportunity for service work and to Richard Escanilla for his volunteer time on the programme.  

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