Masina Kenworthy could be the big sister, or for younger members, their aunty.

One thing's for sure, the Awa City Computer Clubhouse co-ordinator understands what it takes to build a positive family as she fosters relationships within the clubhouse community.

The clubhouse at 7 Park Place in central Wanganui was set up four years ago and has 800 members. It is a safe haven for young people to learn about computing and a range of other skills.

"I grew up in a loving healthy, relationship.

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"There was always someone to give me a cuddle, or someone to talk to," Masina says of parents Penina and Mike Kenworthy.

Masina sees that as part of her role at the clubhouse. "I want to give that to the kids who do not get it at home."

She talks about giving them a home away from home, a safe place to be.

Testament to her role-modelling and the creative vibrancy of the clubhouse, those who came as members and were now older than 18 years, stayed on to mentor the younger members.

"We have awesome mentors. We are lucky to have these amazing people who come and share their talents."

Membership of the club house is free to youth aged 10-18 years. Members can learn music production, digital art and design, photography, animation, game making, robotics, internet skills, architecture, how to play musical instruments, and film production. There is also a hackers' space - don't be alarmed, it's deconstructing electrical items like an electric toothbrush and rebuilding in robotics.

The clubhouse was busy in the last week of the school holidays when the Chronicle visited. UCOL Whanganui Design School tutor Jarod Cornforth was running a workshop challenge on collage, and clubhouse graduate 25-year-old Sam Beard, a DJ workshop.

Masina tells us she first became involved with young people through the Youth Advice Centre, when its offices were on Taupo Quay. She was a Sacred Heart student, and aged 13.

"I was running the rock and roll venue where we held all the gigs and local bands came to play."

When she turned 16, Masina did peer support training, and at 18 when she left school, went to live in Australia before travelling further abroad.

After a three-month stint in the United States, she missed her family and returned to Wanganui to work for Sport Wanganui.

Masina says her career fell into place when she went to work with young people at the YMCA from 2005 to 2010. She supervised the indoor skate park on Wicksteed St, which grew into her leading courses.

Masina then learned dance and ran the dance programme. With a team of dancers, she went into primary and intermediate schools to share the Y We Dance programme.

While teaching dance, Masina continued studying for a certificate in youth work.

"I like youth work because it keeps you fresh and feeling young. I like to be able to watch the young people grow and the different stages in their life, and help them to get to where they want to go."

Masina credits the centre for starting her on her career path. There was Sean Jefferies, who was "really cool", and Shannon Casey, who eventually worked alongside Masina at the YMCA. In her role at the clubhouse, Masina helps members to get a job, write a CV, brush-up on their interview skills, or maybe help them get a food grant from Work and Income.

The club also helps out with some of the bigger explanations of life. She recalls when club members wanted to expand the conversation at the clubhouse following a talk about puberty at school. The conversation also expanded Masina's comfort boundary, but she embraced it in her good-natured way.

If clubhouse members have any health issues, they are referred to a doctor or a counsellor.

As co-ordinator, Masina has to keep learning herself to keep up with fast-changing digital information. She has just been in Denver, Colorado, for the 2014 Intel Community Clubhouse Network conference for co-ordinators to upskill.

The clubhouse received one of 26 Start Making! grants, which enabled her to attend the conference at the Massachusetts Museum of Science. They are run through the Institute of Technology in Boston. At the conference she learnt the basics of circuitry, coding, crafting and engineering.

She will bring it all back to Wanganui with the Start Making! programme.

"The aim is to teach young people technical skills in order to promote career pathways in the information technology sector.

"Our members, who are part of this programme, fix old or broken electronics such as cellphones, remote control toys and headphones, as well as creating games and animations. Being included in the Start Making! programme is a real bonus for developing what we already have at the clubhouse into an even stronger platform for our local youth to gain relevant knowledge, confidence and skills needed for today's tough employment market.

"There are more than 100 computer clubhouses in the world, with three in New Zealand, so receiving the grant is a real testament to what is taking place in our community."

In July, Masina will be heading to the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network biennial teen summit at the North Eastern University in Boston, with two clubhouse members, students Jennifer Wilson of Wanganui High School and Emma O'Connor from Cullinane College. Every clubhouse can take three people. Confirming her leadership qualities, Masina was headhunted to be a facilitator at the summit. This year the theme, "We Are Made for These Times", focuses on youth rights. "It's youth for youth and youth driven."

The Awa City Clubhouse is "quite far ahead", she says, "considering we have only been going for four years."

The vertical age groups sit easily together in the clubhouse as one big family, and those outside the membership age groups cannot wait to get in. The 10-year-olds are hammering down to get in on their birthdays, and those who reach 18 return to mentor the younger members.

Masina says the clubhouse is for "100 per cent connectivity".

"[It's about] everyone having access to the web and not being afraid, and developing awesome skills to get them into jobs or university."

There is a lot more information about what happens at Awa City Computer Clubhouse on their Facebook page, or email masina.kenworthy@wanganui.govt.nz