The message was clear at the Rotorua Youth Centre on Saturday.

From 10am to 4pm, it hosted performances, food stalls, activities and workshops centred around the motto "Be who you want to be" to mark Youth Week 2018.

Co-ordinator Semu Filipo said he took a step back and the Youth Centre Leadership Krew organise the Cultural Youth Fest to celebrate diversity.

"As adults, we think we know what they want," he said.


Born and bred in Rotorua, Filipo said it was difficult to acknowledge his Samoan and Tokelauan roots and he had a strong affiliation to Māori culture instead.

"There were not many Samoans here," he said.

"Youth can hold back from their cultural roots for social, societal and even family reasons."

He hoped the centre's event would help others express their culture.

Jae Woo Jin was one of those at the event.

The 15-year-old's parents are Korean but he was born in New Zealand.

He said he became involved in the centre after seeing it mentioned in a newsletter at his school, John Paul College.

"It is hard for most teens to be who they want to be in society. Judgment from others is very influential," he said.

Cleo Armingeat, 15, moved from France to Rotorua with her family last year.

"We came here to speak more English and get out of Europe. I was looking for something to do to in my holidays and I found the Youth Centre."

She said being involved in the event had helped her acknowledge her own background and others'.

"You feel judgment strongly as a teenager. So you have to not be scared to say what you want to say."