The Blue Light Te Ara Tika Driver Licensing Programme (BLTAT) recently celebrated its second anniversary and its first graduates achieving their full New Zealand driver's licenses.
BLTAT supports young people through the three progressive stages of driver licensing to become fully licensed drivers.
Community volunteers called driver navigators, help by supervising regular driving practice in vehicles provided by the programme.
BLTAT is a collaboration led by Blue Light and NZ Police, supported by South Taranaki District Council, Stratford District Council and Roadsafe Taranaki. It has received funding from Taranaki Electricity Trust, TSB Community Trust, the Tindall Foundation, Roadsafe Taranaki and the South Taranaki Safe Communities fund.
Around 50 people attended a celebration at Stratford War Memorial Hall last month to celebrate the progress of the young people participating in the programme and give thanks to community volunteers and funders.
Programme coordinator Leanne Richards says the annual celebration normally takes place on July 4, recognising that a driver's licence is an important step towards independence, but had to be postponed this year due to delays created by the Covid lockdown.
"Many of our young people had their test bookings delayed, but they're starting to come through now and we're really happy with the results being achieved."
As the first BLTAT participant to graduate from the programme with her full New Zealand driver's licence, Reign Weston spoke at the event and gave a 'big shout out to Alan Jamieson' who was the volunteer driver navigator who supported her with driving practice sessions during her school lunch hours.
Reign started with BLTAT when she was 15. She said she was grateful to Alan and the programme.
"I enjoyed participating in the course and I'm grateful for the support Blue Light have given me through my high school years and now. I highly recommend other youth to take part in the programme. It's really beneficial," she says.
Reign is studying a Bachelor of Education and travelling to work at Kohanga in South Taranaki.
Alan Jamieson says it was 'great' to be given the opportunity to be Reign's driver navigator.
"She is a lovely girl. She has an awesome attitude and was very keen to be doing the course. It's great that she progressed all the way through to her full license."
Reign is one of four who have recently achieved a full licence.
Of the 40 other participants currently on the programme, 21 have passed their restricted licence, while the remainder work their way towards achieving this with support from community volunteers.
Sergeant Kayanna Holley who was MC for the event says that BLTAT's ultimate aim was enable young people to progress into employment.
Leanne says she expressed BLTAT's gratitude towards the "amazing volunteers who sacrifice their time to give our young people the opportunity to gain the driving experience they need to pass the practical test."
"I love working on this programme, where I get to work with such awesome community minded people and see firsthand what a difference a driver's licence can make."
BLTAT is actively seeking more volunteers in the Central Taranaki area. People interested in volunteering should contact Leanne on 027 221 7769 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.