Tonight I was invited to go with the Deputy Principal to watch one of my Year 12’s give a speech at the Outstanding Student Awards, for those students who have participated in Project K. Project K is a leadership and mentoring program run by the Foundation for Youth Development in Auckland and they provide an incredible service. Of the 7 students from across Auckland who spoke tonight, 3 of them will be selected to go to speak in front of the Governor General at Government house. Lord, did I have the feels.
The students who spoke were so different, from all different backgrounds and came from all ends of Auckland. The one thing they had in common was a need, a potential being wasted, a disengagement with school and their surroundings – for whatever reason. They spoke variously of truanting school because they didn’t ‘see the point’ in school, of not knowing who they were, of suicidal thoughts, of ennui.
All of them so positive now, so engaged, so motivated – one boy now literate and visibly shaking as he read his simple yet powerful speech.
Oh lordy – my eyes were a wee bit leaky.
One of the fundamental aspects of the program is the mentor relationship. The students are assigned a volunteer who is vetted and actively engaged with by the Project K folks and it is that ongoing support and guidance that all of the students spoke of. Having someone there for them, someone to collect them and take them to the gym, someone to talk through their fears and aspirations, someone to be a cheerleader and check in with them at school. The students spoke of these people with such love and gratitude.
Oh and oh my goodness. I was so proud of our grrl – she spoke so articulately about her struggle, she honoured both her culture and her journey to find where she was placed within it, she spoke of her goals and the reality of the challenges she will face – and she spoke of perseverance and support systems and how wonderful her mentor Sheryl is for her.
Such a great night.
And the funny thing was that because Chelsea Sugar are great sponsors of Project K (they even encourage members of their staff to become mentors in the program) they hosted the event and gave goodie bags to peeps who attended. I got given a bag of all different types of sugar! After a week and half of being sugar-free and having the withdrawal headaches to prove it! Universe! C’mon!