Project K Leading the Way

Project K Leading the Way
  • Written by
  • Dyani Van Basten Batenburg

There’s Proof in the Pudding

Opportunity doesn’t always come to those that wait, which is why the team behind Project K – New Zealand’s youth focussed programme – decided to take matters into their own hands 25 years ago and unite with Year 10 Kiwis who were seeking a change in direction, greater connections, added confidence and inspiration. Today, the charity-funded organisation – facilitated by the Graeme Dingle Foundation – is run in 12 colleges nationwide: Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Canterbury.

Beyond the here and now

Bay of Plenty programme director for both Mount Manganui and Otumoetai Colleges, Dan Allen-Gordon, says Project K isn’t ‘risk’ focussed, rather it’s intent on reaching out to students at a transitional time in their lives, one often fraught with an overwhelming sense of change and expectation.

“Of the students that complete the 14-month programme, many of them are facing hurdles in their lives that are beyond their control. At Year 10 level they’ve had a year to settle into college, they know what’s expected of them heading into NCEA, teachers know them – it can be tough bridging the gaps and confidently gearing themselves towards achieving future goals,” he explains. “Which is why the practical aspects of the programme – participating in stage one which is a three week Wilderness Adventure and getting hands-on involvement in the second stage, a week-long Community Challenge – alongside partnering with a mentor for over a year, really equips them with the life skills – focus, empathy, resilience, perseverance – to head back into the school environment and beyond, and stay true to themselves.”

Fair play from start to finish

Staying true and fair is also akin to the way Project K is run, says Dan.

“Every intake we have six boys and six girls who haven’t been hand picked by teachers or put forward by family members. We work on a three-stage process.

Identifying students via self-efficacy questionnaires, then we interview students and their parents, from there students are picked at random – there’s no favouritism involved, it’s an equal playing field.”

United we stand

One such student chosen to complete the programme five years ago was Mount Maunganui College student Paris Te Oka, who credits Project K with her achievements and renewed sense of direction.

“Without a doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without my experience and learnings from Project K. I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life and I felt lost. Through the programme I found myself and really tuned into what I really wanted from life,” she says.

Today, Paris is working in childcare and prepping for a career in the music industry.

“Music and kids are my thing. I am 100% confident knowing that both have a place in my future.”

And, like many of Project K’s graduates, Paris holds fast to the relationship she built with her mentor, Helen Fraser, a Mount Maunganui local, mum and business woman.

“Helen was incredible the whole journey through and beyond. And, she went out of her way to create additional opportunities for me, like work experience at her Mount Maunganui store, Bettie Monroe, helping me learn the retail ropes and customer service skills,” explains Paris. “I was completely overwhelmed by the human element when doing the programme, it’s really strengthened my sense of identity.”

To learn more or get involved with Project K in the Bay of Plenty, reach out to: dan.allen-gordon@dinglefoundation.org.nz

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