By Jodi Bryant
Olivia Bratty wants to be a lawyer or a zoo-keeper and definitely a Silver Fern when she grows up and those who know her have no doubt she will realise her dreams.
But if the year 10 Tikipunga High School student hadn't joined the I Have a Dream programme in year seven, she thinks her life would have taken more of a downward path.
"Things would be very different," says the ambitious 14-year-old, with the 100 per cent school attendance rate. "I think I'd be less-focused on schoolwork and possibly even have gone off the rails."
"I did all the work but it wasn't my main focus. I think I was probably more into playing with my friends and eating my lunch," she giggles.
Olivia was one of the first students to join I Have a Dream when it launched in Whangarei in 2016.
"I was intrigued and thought this could be a good idea for kids in our area because sometimes they do need guidance and there's not necessarily an adult figure that they can go to about it."
Quietly-spoken Olivia says, after joining the programme, schoolwork became more important. "Instead of talking to my friends, I could focus on school – it was more important. Then I would go to the I Have a Dream house and we could talk about it."
The I Have a Dream house is the base located on campus where students can drop in at morning tea, lunch or after school, when programmes are run. This is where you will find the students' navigators.
Olivia's navigator, Mo Matautia-Tepania spent her first term in the role, building relationships with the Dreamers, focusing on trust and consistency.
"It was learning for all of us but the connections established were so valuable. My navigator role is extremely rewarding. Each navigator brings their own flair to the role and that is reflected in the Dreamers."
Mo has watched Olivia, not only excel in class and become an avid sports woman, but also blossom and grow.
"Olivia is going to go a long way. She's got that determination and drive and, once she sets her mind on something, she's got that YOLO (you only live once) attitude. She's got good leadership skills and the respect of a lot of her peers. I just love how she always gives her time to things that aren't just benefiting her and she's always very humble."
Dubbed the upcoming Irene Van Dyk, Olivia has played netball since she was four and, as well as playing in the school senior netball team, the talented goal shoot has been coaching intermediate level and never missed a training or game.
"I think the netball courts are my second home," she laughs.
Back when the programme was launched, an 11-year-old Olivia featured in the promotional video and stated that she wanted to become a zoo-keeper. When asked today, if that is still her dream, she nods, adding that she'd now also like to be a lawyer.
"It's either a zoo-keeper or a lawyer. I've seen a lot of injustice in the community and over in America, things that aren't right…
"I Have a Dream is a really good thing. Everyone should be able to have the chance to be involved with it because it opens up opportunities you wouldn't otherwise have and you get to do amazing things."
Some of these activities have included helping with food preparation for the homeless at the Soul Food kitchen, which those involved found 'very rewarding', and watching The SkyCity Breakers play basketball last year in Auckland, which was an incentive to the many student fans for achieving their goals. Olivia was also filmed in the IHAD song and helped with renovations to the headquarters when Three's The Block NZ came to town.
Olivia's whanau are heavily involved in her learning and extra-curricular activities by volunteering in any way they can.
"They're very proud of where I am and very thankful to Mo and everyone."
Adds Mo: "Our dreamers are amazing young superstars. They have every right to succeed and do the best they can for their future. I often say to them: 'You need to learn all you can so you can be my boss one day!' All I get is a giggle from them."