Victor Dunn-Schwenke has always enjoyed helping youth.

When he was head boy of Tikipunga High School he steered other students on the right track when he saw them going down the wrong path.

Nearly 10 years later, it is his job to do the same thing.

"I think during being head prefect I saw other students that went down a few different paths and I was able to relate to them and help them out during that time. I did see it happening around me and I found my ability to help them out," he said.


He admits he got into a few "dramas" himself at school and was going down some bad paths.

Now aged 28, Mr Dunn-Schwenke is a youth coach for People Potential, which delivers the Ministry of Social Development's Youth Service programme, and is studying a level 3 youth work qualification with Careerforce - his first qualification out of school.

He said the 65 youths he works with come from different backgrounds and are dealing with a range of issues from alcohol and addictions to young people who have a lack of motivation and no one to talk to.

"I think for them to relate to us, we need to be able to communicate them on their level as opposed to coming across to them like 'do this, do that' as another teacher. Being able to relate to them, how they communicate, can make them feel a bit at ease to tell you things," he said.

Nikki Hawes, Mr Dunn-Schwenke's manager, said the relationships coaches build with youth were important.

"We have had some amazing disclosure and kudos to these guys because they have built that relationship where these young people can say 'I'm feeling like crap today'.

"We've had some in crisis who ring the coach and say 'this is where I'm at'," she said.

Mr Dunn-Schwenke has two kids of his own now, aged 6 and 4, and said it was important youth in Whangarei had good role models, and services to help

"I'd say back in my time, I didn't feel like we had the same sort of things in place like we do now.

"I wish I'd heard of youth services or anything like that because I think what we do is amazing."