Lily Simmons-Donaldson, front, with her mentors from the Maori Party
LILY Simmons-Donaldson got to draft her own legislation for less school hours during her Maori youth mentoring programme last year.
She was one of 22 last year who took part in Te Taiohitoa o Te Awe, a mentoring scheme for Maori youth set up by Te Awe Wellington Maori Business Network.
The programme, also known as Young Champions, has been going since 2011, and is funded by Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori development.
Te Taiohitoa programme manager, Mel Harrington, has high hopes for the mentoring scheme, hoping to expand it this year, but says it would be dependent on funding.
“Ideally we want to expand into the Hutt Valley, because there is a huge demand, but it’s constrained by government funding.”
The appeal of the programme comes from Te Awe’s aim to assist young Maori into careers through practical work opportunities, rather than through monetary grants.
“This was another way in which they could help rangatahi [young Maori] because the underlying thing is the statistics aren’t great, so that was the real inspiration for us to do something about it,” Ms Harrington said.
The scheme is made up of three components, which are inclusive of whanau and the secondary schools involved, but the main component is the one on one mentoring section.
Lily Simmons-Donaldson , of Ngati Porou, took part in the mentoring scheme last year, after seeing a presentation by Te Awe at her school, Wellington East Girls College.
She joined the Maori Party for nearly a whole week full time, taking part in Parliament tours, sitting in on discussions in house, listening and responding to questions, attending a conference with co-leader Tariana Turia, and even having a go at developing her own Act.
Lily decided her Act would be to reduce school hours, and was taken through the step by step process of getting an Act into play by her mentor.
The scheme gave Lily an insight into what the working world was like, and while she would recommend the programme to other students, she warns they need to be motivated.
“I thought it was quite a good initiative, I would recommend it to other students, as long as they have a genuine interest, because otherwise they won’t get as much out of it.
“It’s fun, but if you’re not actually paying that much attention and putting any effort into it then you’re not gonna get much out of it,” Lily said.
The scheme provides a new perspective for business owners and mentors as well.
Learning Media Wellington opted to take on three mentees last year, who got to experience publishing with three members of the editorial team.
The mentees volunteered to take personal responsibility for a student each for 8 days between March and September.
Learning Media chief executive officer, David Glover, said there had been a lot of enthusiasm about the programme from both the mentor, and mentee perspectives.
“I think it bought a business and some students together in a way which otherwise may not have happened, so it’s great, I think we’ll do it again.”
He added that the fact that the students were hand picked by Te Awe and suited to the business added to the success of the scheme.
“Particularly in Maori Media, the talents are in high demand, so I would look at hiring these types of students in the future, they all had great attitudes,” he said.
Ms Harrington said this year all of the businesses who took part last year, including the Wellington Rugby Football Union, Karaka Cafe, and the Ridges Hotel would be taking part again, and they were exploring a handful of others to come on board.
“This year we’re also going to have more guest speakers from businesses, and motivational speakers, as well as engaging Careers New Zealand, getting them up front to start some goal setting and goal planning,” she said.
In 2011 Te Awe had 31 students involved with the programme, and 22 students last year.
Despite the decline in numbers of students, Ms Harrington was happy with progress.
“I think the first year was all part of learning and exploring what we needed to develop, last year we learnt to match kids specifically with their interests, and had less drop outs.”
She was optimistic about the potential of the scheme this year, with funding being extended from enough for up to 30 students, to up to 40 students being able to take part.
“We need to be teaching them [the students] and giving them the skills, saying, you know, ‘I’m not gonna come pick you up, this is a work place, you have the privilege of working with these businesses, so you need to treat is as if you are in a job,” Ms Harrington said.