Without judgement, and with an open mind, ask yourself this: what is hindering some of our young people from positively engaging in our community? Where do we see young people playing an active role? How would we like to see young people excel?
It is great to see successful rangatahi (youth) in Whangārei who are confident enough to pursue opportunities within school or leadership groups, sports teams and other extracurricular activities.
They are championing the idea that there are youth who actively engage in activities in the community. Unfortunately, though, there is always a flip side.
Youth want more, they want to be involved in these activities, but due to barriers such as whānau commitments, lack of income and transport, many are unable to. But with a little awhi (support), the right tools and skills youth can achieve their goals.
The 2018 Census data shows there are 2,400 young people who are not engaged in education or training and employment across Northland.
So how can we make an impact on a young person? How can we inspire and support them to do better, to be better? Are we as a community providing the encouragement to ensure youth resilience?
Rangatahi are smart, resilient and capable but we must be mindful of their circumstances and upbringing. They can become disheartened when they are not approached or asked to be involved.
In saying that, approaching youth is not always the easiest of tasks. A disengaged young person can be difficult to work with, but if we provide them with something else, another way of thinking about a different way of dealing with things, we are more likely to receive a positive experience.
Whangārei Youth Space's START employment programme tried a different approach after noticing engagement with their youth was becoming a little more difficult, the kaiarahi (mentors) got creative and ran a workshop which was interactive, visual and gave rangatahi the opportunity to learn hands-on and interpersonal skills.
This was really effective as the youth began to understand the purpose and point our kaiarahi wanted to make.
This space encouraged the rangatahi to see another point of view and reflect on their actions. By role playing and switching positions, it gave them the power to decide how things should be handled if they were on the other side as a youth worker providing the support.
This approach was effective for the young person and kaiarahi as they had a better understanding of each other's point of view. The youth agreed that this is a good way for them to learn future skills moving forward, including employment and social skills.
Over time it has become a popular opinion that youth are not interested and lazy, and my mission is to highlight that rangitahi are far from that.
If youth aren't involved around the community and are 'acting out', maybe take a moment to ask yourself why someone so young and full of potential lacks aspiration?
I think once we break down those barriers, the diamond in the rough in all of us will shine bright.
• Anahera Pickering is community outreach co-ordinator at Whangārei Youth Space. She can be contacted at Anahera@youthspace.co.nz .