Asaeli Pene says he wouldn't be who he is today without Whangārei Youth Space.

The 19-year-old has a number of achievements under his belt - opening for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she visited Whangārei in June and completing his first year of a social work degree are just a couple of them.

But he didn't always imagine he'd be where he is today.

"I probably would've been the same person I was at school if youth space wasn't around. I was violent, just your average statistic," he said.


Currently the Whangārei Youth Space board are working hard to get more funding.

Foundation North has provided $100,000 of funding each year for the next three years, which should help keep the doors open until 2021.

However, it will be operating at a deficit of about $220,000 next year so more funding is needed.

Pene said he doesn't like thinking about what would happen if youth space closed.

"Youth space is more than just important. It's a part of who I am now. This place has helped me give identity but also shape my own identity and to embrace my uniqueness."

Pene finished school in 2016 and walked into youth space to volunteer after spending the whole day searching for work with no luck.

He wanted to do something to keep him busy and out of trouble and also had a good mum on his case.

"Helping young people is something I always wanted to do but I can't help kids if I'm still a kid myself," he said.

Pene said youth space has provided him with a range of opportunities - He spoke at WYSTalks in front of Youth Minister Peeni Henare and Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft; He was part of Tuia, a national leadership programme which Mayor Sheryl Mai selected him for; and attended an education conference in Auckland - those are just some of them.

He is now well on his way to achieving his goals and wants people to know how much youth space has helped him.

"If it wasn't for youth space I'd still be trying to find myself but in less positive circles," he said.