Leadership Ignited in Youth thanks to a Generous Donor

by Bree Arnott

The first graduates of the MHS Ignite Youth Development Programme were recently celebrated when they arrived back at the Whenua Iti base from their final journey. Each year, a group of Year 9 students are selected to join this Programme, during which they will participate in a total of six weeks of wilderness-based and adventurous journeys across the three year programme.

The Ignite Programme is a partnership between Whenua Iti Outdoors and Motueka High School that was instigated by a local donor to provide a positive stimulus for boys in their crucial mid-teen years – focused on furthering their personal development skills, enabling them to seize opportunities and grow in confidence, make good decisions, and be motivated towards making the most of their time at school.

The Year 11 group for 2021 – Zefa Fa’avae, Damani Cullen, Lochy Shand, Archie Bridge, Cassius Drewery, Tom King & Oliver Bradley with instructors Charlie Martin & Chris Gilberston

The activities for each journey are planned and chosen by the team of experienced Whenua Iti Outdoors Instructors to best achieve the outcomes desired on the programme. The lead instructor will stay with the group across the three years, to guide and mentor the group through various challenges. “The activities are chosen to not only challenge these boys, but to also focus on building teamwork, resilience and decision-making skills so they might have the confidence to put themselves forward for leadership positions in their senior years at high school,” says Charlie Martin, the lead instructor for this Year 11 group. “During this period I’ve watched these boys grow in confidence and develop their interpersonal skills. They’ve definitely had some testing trips and I can see that they’ve become good team players who are supportive of each other.”

Part of the programme is the mentoring and support they receive when back at school, particularly in the first two years of the programme. The current Year 10 Ignite students have been fortunate enough to have Gavin Larsen, ex New Zealand cricketer and current CEO of Top of the South Community Foundation as a contributory mentor, and between journeys the staff at Motueka High School also work with the boys on the intended outcomes. “We feel this programme offers an opportunity for these young men to form a bond that may not necessarily have evolved in the classroom.  Through the shared challenges and successes they gain an understanding of themselves and realise they are far more capable than they sometimes think”, says Amy Dalton, Head of Careers at Motueka High.

One of the highlight journeys for these boys was the rafting trip down the Clarence River, a memorable mid-winter experience which they now look back on with a smile. “It was a great new experience, real cold, but real fun and challenging as well,” said Lochy. The boys have also acknowledged the ultimate benefits these trips have given them. “I know that I’m a lot more confident talking to new people,” says Oliver, “and I’ve learnt a lot of life skills that I will take into the future.”

“The need for leadership skills, and building the confidence to lead, is evident at school and elsewhere in the community,” says Mark Bruce-Miller, General Manager at Whenua Iti. “We are incredibly grateful to the generosity of a community member for instigating this programme that allows us to create experiences that will not only benefit these boys as individuals, but will ultimately benefit our community as we turn out compassionate and capable leaders”.

The Programme has continued in spite of this disruptive year, and will be available to the 2022 Year 9 entrants at Motueka High School.

“I’d recommend it, it’s a real cool Programme,” says Oliver, “and it’s great to get outdoors and learn some new stuff. There are a lot of things on these trips that you wouldn’t usually get to do.”

Thank you to the amazing contribution from a local donor that enables this programme to be offered to our community.

Want to find out more about a programme or have a question for us? Talk to one of our friendly team - we're happy to help.