We are more than you see.

That's the message from the Whangārei teenager behind this year's winning Youth Week T-shirt design.

Whangārei Boys' High School student Jacob Gibbons, 17, entered the Youth Week T-shirt design competition run by the Whangārei Youth Network earlier this month.

His design - which showcases the raw talent and sporting ability of his friend, Jordan Tavares, along with the message 'He wai hōhonu a mātou' which refers to the unseen depths of youth potential - was chosen to be printed on T-shirts to fundraise for youth services in Whangārei.


"I really wanted to collaborate with my friend and help him be recognised as someone who can become a professional basketball player.

"I incorporated the Māori design as it holds the values and customs of my culture," Gibbons said.

The boys grew up in Whangārei and they live at Carruth House - the boarding house at Boys' High.

They had three days to complete the design, and they needed every last minute as Gibbons took photos of Tavares on the basketball court and then edited them through various computer programs.

"Editing is a very delicate process. You can plan up to 100 designs but only pick two," Gibbons said.

"I knew I was on the right track when I saw Jordan's eyes light up when he saw the image animated and brought to life with new colours."

Whangārei Boys' High School student Jacob Gibbons, 17, wearing the Youth Week T-shirt he designed. Photo / Supplied
Whangārei Boys' High School student Jacob Gibbons, 17, wearing the Youth Week T-shirt he designed. Photo / Supplied

It's the first time Gibbons has shared his artwork outside of school, and he hopes it will encourage others to see young people in a more positive light and help them pursue their passion.

"At a glance, people don't see your talent. But if you stop and take the time to get to know someone, you'll see everyone has potential."


Gibbons credits his friends and teachers along with his social worker from Oranga Tamariki, Daniel, for supporting him to discover and develop his passion.

"At the start of last year I didn't have much skill, but I felt encouraged to keep working at it in my own time. When I was younger, I didn't realise I had this potential, but now I feel confident to go on and study visual arts at AUT."

He encourages other young people to find a way to express themselves, whether that's through art, sport or dance.

"Try something new and have fun, that's what life is about."

There are only a handful of T-shirts left at the Whangārei Youth Space, but if you want to purchase one and support the kaupapa, email the team at whangareiyouthnetwork@gmail.com.