Karen 'Kaz' Hepi (Ngāpuhi) is proud to say she comes from Te Tai Tokerau, an area often shadowed by its struggles with gangs, methamphetamine, unemployment and poverty.
But the 25-year-old isn't letting the stereotype of her hometown affect the work she is doing in her community for her rangatahi (young people).
"I love where I come from," Hepi said.
Hepi is one of New Zealand's six Future Leaders coaches who runs a Future Leaders programme in Kaikohe.
"It allows the opportunity for our rangatahi to go out and explore," she said.
The Future Leader's programme ran by Hepi is designed for rangatahi to get access to coaching, mentoring and workshops to help develop their ideas and skills for the future.
There are six Future Leaders programmes in New Zealand that are run by local youth councillors just like Hepi.
What sets her apart from other youth workers is she understands the struggles youth face of growing up in Kaikohe.
Hepi's father was heavily involved with gangs, meaning she and her siblings were surrounded by drugs and alcohol.
"Everything kind of drove me to be better for me and my whānau," she said.
Hepi said growing up in the Far North shaped who she is and inspired her to help her community today.
After finishing high school at Northland College in Kaikohe, Hepi spent some time in Waikato and Australia before she realised Kaikohe is where her heart is.
"My heart was still pulling me home," she said.
Since 2017, Hepi has been back home in the North helping break the cycle for rangatahi growing up in Kaikohe through her work as a Future Leaders coach.
"I'm proud of where I come from, I'm proud of my whānau so I stand strong in that."
Although she would love to help all rangatahi in Kaikohe she knows it is just her and is currently working with 15 young people through the programme.
"From a young age I knew what I wanted to do and that was to give back to my whānau."
Hepi said the programme she runs helps young people become their best selves.
After two years running the programme, Hepi will be speaking at the Festival For The Future that will be held in Wellington at the end of the month.
Festival For The Future is a three-day event where rangatahi across New Zealand gather, attend workshops and have the opportunity to listen to speakers from across the country on a range of topics.
Although she is excited about the opportunity to tell her story, Hepi said she is nervous.
But she knows sharing her story from the position she is in today will help other rangatahi.
Inspiring Stories founder Guy Ryan, 35, believes rangatahi in New Zealand need support.
"We need to be investing in young people who have the biggest stake in the future."
Just like Hepi, Ryan grew up in a small town so he understands the struggles youth in those regions go through.
"There is such a big need to access and support for rangatahi, especially in our more challenged, rural communities," he said.
This is why he believes people like Hepi and the programme they run is an important aspect of the Inspiring Stories brand.
One day Hepi hopes to become a judge and bring her mahi back home to help rangatahi stay out of the court system.
"I do what I love and I love what I do," Hepi said.