The thrill of riding powerful dirt bikes has had many benefits and given many life lessons to Awhina School/Activity Centre students as part of an exciting programme.
Dirt Bike Encounter, run by Youth Encounter, enables youth the opportunity to ride a dirt bike through tutorial as a personal and social development therapy over eight weeks.
Dirt bikes and safety equipment are provided for all participants along with a therapist and instructor.
The processes are developed for 'at risk' youth – often found struggling with behavioural and social issues, being practical in nature and failing academically by virtue of their circumstances.
Dirt Bike Encounter therapy offers a journey that is twofold – to get on track on the bike and to get on track in life.
Youth Encounter has been running these courses for more than five years with groups from Alternative Education facilities in Te Puke and Whakatane, and this is Rotorua's second year.
In Rotorua, the Dirt Bike Encounter has been creating many benefits for students with Awhina School/Activity Centre.
Awhina School/Activity Centre serves four high schools of Rotorua in providing an alternative setting which allows students who are referred to Awhina the opportunity to re-engage in their education with individual learning, behavioural, and social pathway plans.
This is to achieve positive outcomes and transition back to mainstream schooling or onto further education or employment.
Principal Kairo McLean says Awhina is also a "place of healing".
"For many of our students, part of the re-connection process with their education is providing hands-on learning opportunities, like the Dirt Bike Encounter therapy programme to teach riding techniques alongside life techniques which will help them think and make smart, positive choices to enable a better way forward."
Kairo says this is the second year Awhina School has been lucky enough to be a part of this programme, and this year the group is made up of predominately girls.
"Not only do they learn how to safely ride a dirt bike, most importantly the rangatahi are empowered to get their thinking on track so that they can create for themselves the best track forward in life, and the tools to stay on that track.
"The students get an understanding that just like they can have control over a powerful dirt bike engine they too can have control over their thoughts and attitudes.
"The youth are empowered to live life wide open over the rough ground, around the corners, tackling the difficult obstacles with ease, soaring high over the jumps and getting back up when they fall down."
A prizegiving of the Dirt Bike Therapy course with students from Awhina is being held on September 10 at Pirini's Motorbike Park, Pongakawa.
Kairo says they take all their students out to the track for the prizegiving, have a shared kai together and then watch them showcase their dirt bike skills.
The students will undoubtedly feel a sense of pride when they can show their whānau, peers and teachers the dirt bike skills they have learnt over the prior weeks, Kairo says.
This year as part of the programme, the Dirt Bike tutors will be returning to Awhina in Term 4 for mentoring sessions with the group, and ensuring the students continue to make progress in life even after the dirt bike riding has finished.
Mary Wanhill, Youth Encounter's founder and developer/facilitator of the Dirt Bike Encounter therapy course, says seeing young people start to feel a sense of worth about themselves and how their unique qualities carry incredible potential to succeed in life and find fulfilment, is what drives her to do this.
"Seeing their smiles when they have overcome a challenge and hearing the laughter or excitement is super satisfying.
"It is a privilege to connect and show our young people how truly incredible they truly are."
She says there are a number of important life techniques for rangatahi that are in line with the courses.
These include taking responsibility, changing direction and focusing forward.
Youth Encounter's Dirt Bike Therapy has reached more than 150 young people. It has run 18 group therapy courses and taken hundreds of one-on-one client sessions.
Mary says they would love to offer more for the Rotorua youth, as they know there is a significant need out there.
"As we are currently a mobile operation this limits what we can do, but we are working towards increasing our capacity through developing our own activity base.
"This will be in the central location of Paengaroa so we can serve Rotorua youth as well as Tauranga, Te Puke and Whakatane."
Go to www.youthencounter.co.nz for more details on how you can be involved and support Youth Encounter to impact our rangatahi.