Young leaders in Whangārei come from school, church, sporting groups, within whanau and even the youth lounging around not doing much.
There's potential within every young person to be a great leader in our community, when they receive support from whanau and friends, are cared for, made to feel safe and given positive guidance.
Not so long ago, I was a young person who just sat in town, hanging with my friends, not up to much but also not up to no good. I am sharing this because, like me, there are still young people who hang around town simply because there is nowhere else to hang with your friends and be yourself.
The opportunities I've experienced over the past few years would have been unimaginable to 16-year old Anahera who used to have "nothing better to do" than hang around town with her mates, because there was nothing else to do when you have no money.
These opportunities have helped me grow a better understanding, trust and hope in my community, my whanau and life in general.
Previously I have shared many issues and topics from employment, education, social media, bullying, mental health and the impact on youth throughout Covid and the support needed.
I've been sharing parts of myself with every story I write as I understand the need and importance of bringing awareness to issues youth face today while intending to encourage the community to support.
When we are young, we want to be doctors, teachers, lawyers, shopkeepers but as we grow older, our experiences change us, which makes us realise that pathways change.
A young, business mummy of two shared with me her dreams to be a teacher when she was younger: "I always aspired to be a person who taught others".
Venturing out she wanted to explore event planning and party styling but she struggled to find a position suited to her age while searching for work in this profession, in Whangārei: "I never found a position I could just sign up to and do this sort of mahi," she said.
With no luck, she started her own business and shares how "as a solo mum on a benefit" she tried to "build a business with as little as $40 to spare some weeks after my weekly payments and essentials".
She continues encouraging young people to become their own bosses and venture out in entrepreneurship: "All you have to do is start. Start small. Start with planning. Always have new ideas. Be consistent with developing and just work hard. Your vision will become reality in no time."
Young leaders of today are in many positions, from health, government, education, social services and other departments, which is inspiring and aspirational.
The reality is that many young people are facing challenges that affect them daily, different challenges that our parents never faced.
Having 24/7 exposure on social media is one of the biggest challenges when navigating life but we are also very strong, resilient and change-makers of this generation, which needs to be highlighted and celebrated.
More positive recognition is needed because too often young people are portrayed by the media as lazy, uninterested, and not involved, which is untrue - especially within the Māori and Pasifika communities who continuously work hard to push through this stigma in which they are overrepresented.
• Anahera Pickering is community outreach co-ordinator at Whangārei Youth Space. She can be contacted at Anahera@youthspace.co.nz .