• Natalie Jessup

High trust funding enables rangatahi to transition onto meaningful pathways

When Covid-19 hit the small community of Te Kauwhata, the impact was huge. Lockdowns, job losses, stress and evolving wellbeing factors, meant that many students from Te Kauwhata College were forced to leave school to financially support their families. However, a trust based funding model has enabled resourcing to get to where it is needed most.

Staff at the college receive many messages from students, who are trying to juggle different demands to support their families through this difficult time.

“I have to leave school because it is too hard for my parents to pay for two of us to catch the Huntly bus. So can you help me get into a course to be a social worker… I want to help our people, and I want my brother to still come to school,” said one.

There is added pressure to find employment when living in Te Kauwhata due to the distance from significant industry and potential job placements.

“The pressure for our students to contribute financially was extremely stressful, as we have no real industry in Te Kauwhata, says Sera Henare, Kaitiaki Hauora - Maaori Wellbeing and Academic Dean at Te Kauwhata College. “Thinking big and constantly adapting our approach was really important”.

Some of the 2021 Year 12 Te Kupenga aakonga

Initially the school managed to secure funding from the Ministry of Education, however this proved hard to access, as there were often conditions and criteria.

Instead, to give these rangatahi tailored support, a high trust funding model was delivered in cooperation with the Waikato Plan. This meant trusting the frontline youth professionals to work in the way they know best, as they hold the key relationships with youth and their families. At Te Kauwhata College their Kaitiaki Hauora Dean employed the skills of staff and students to develop something responsive.

"Having funding from the Waikato Plan, that was not restricted by red tape, literally allowing us to make real changes in the lives of our rangatahi", says Sera.
“As a rurally based school we often find our need is not visible. Being able to access a fund that was specifically there to transition rangatahi (youth) from kura (school) to employment or future study was exactly what we needed”.

Through the funding, support, guidance and manaakitanga was extended to meet the needs of students. This included practical materials like work equipment, clothes, course fees and bus tickets, as well as pastural support, to connect, reflect and recalibrate.

Saneha King and Danielle Te Hiwa presenting on hauora services.

Students reported that the provision of practical tools broke down a lot of barriers and enabled them to get into meaningful work and employment.

"Once I was told I was going to be getting a laptop I knew my parents would be able to support me going to study as that barrier was removed", said one student.
"Thank you Whaea Sera. My laptop arrived today. And you got my favourite colour RED. I love it," said another.

Sera has worked alongside Joe Wilson for three years to provide extra support to rangatahi to achieve their potential. There are several foundational reasons that Joe believes this trial had such positive impacts.

“We have shared values, innovative approaches, and the desire to help redistribute power to the people who know best on the frontline of teaching and youth work,” says Joe.

The process identified ways to awhi (support) the rangatahi and ensure they were placed at the centre of every decision. The relationship between kaiako (teacher), whaanau, community and education employer, also worked collectively to enable rangatahi to reach their potential.

“Sera is a highly engaged teacher who really knows her students, their situation outside of school, their whaanau, and she has a willingness to make things happen outside of a system, which does not always give students the extra support they need to reach their potential”, says Joe.
“Without this, no funding or programme can ever really work. It's the care and love that goes into the use of funding in real terms that counts from extra special kaiarahi”.

Sapphire Hemara presenting at the Celebrating Success Youth Hui in 2021. Sapphire is studying towards becoming a social worker.

High trust also needed to exist between Sera and the people helping to roll out the pilot programme.

“I believe the success of this pilot programme stems from the quality and consistency of the relationship between Sera and I,” says Joe, “because the relationship with Sera was authentic and trusted, it allowed things to flow and flourish.”

Key to the programme’s success was building relationships with employers and key stakeholders, and running the rangatahi “Dream” session, which is specifically focused on the aims and opportunities that each rangatahi aspires towards.

Individualised packs were prepared that contained resources and documentation that support, prepare and provide access to key information for each rangatahi’s transition from secondary education to further training or employment.

Saneha King, Ariki Kingi and Pharrel Whitehead-Sa.

“We made hauora and wellbeing a major focus”, says Sera, “and we linked into our youth mentors and referred most of our rangatahi to them”.

Tuakana (senior) shares with teina (juniors) – wahine group

Throughout the year there will be regular check-ins with rangatahi, and in early December they will revisit the information collected in the “Dream” session. This will also be a point to checked in on their hauora (wellbeing) and progress.

Following this there will be a whaanau “Connecting” hui to allow whaanau to see what is available to them and their children. Students will be connected with work brokers, youth mentors, potential employers, and current employers. Over summer the team will also be available to resource rangatahi with anything they may need.

Wintec came to share about their programme, one student ended up studying there, while others are into work or apprenticeships.

Students after receiving a greenstone taonga. Te Miha Barlow (a rugby league regional player), Sera Henare, Dinardis Hoeta, who successfully gained employment through a gateway programme, and Susan Pomate.

“When I spoke to Dinardis’ father he said his boy was the first one in their whaanau to leave school and go straight into mahi. Knowing the barriers Dinardis had faced and hearing his father’s pride was extremely moving. And now Dinardis wants to be the first in his family to go to university,” says Sera. “This is powerful mahi that is transforming the educational outcomes of our rangatahi”.

“With the Waikato Plan fund, it was open, and we were able to use it to elevate rangatahi into the world. Giving these kids a taonga meant they walked away with energy and our love,” says Sera.

Georgia Cornel (on left) is studying at NZMA, working in Hamilton in the hospitality industry. Cassidy Moana is working in Huntly. Her dream is to become an ECE teacher and work in kohanga.

2021 Te Kupenga students meeting ‘Boy’ James Rolleston and hearing his incredible story.

The funding also supported academically focused youth. All aakonga were invited and involved and high achieving students ran a homework club and lunchtime tutorials.

“School is not always easy for these rangatahi,” says Sera, “so being able to gather together, share kai, share our hopes and dreams was really important. Moments like these make students feel valued”.

Jade Wilson; 1st In Level 2, Top Science Award, Top Academic Maaori award, Excellence endorsed in level 2, subject endorsed with Excellence in English, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Merit Endorsed in Biology). Sera Henare, Kaitiaki Hauora dean. Turongo Henare –Ruruku; 2nd equal in level 2, Excellence endorsed in level 2, subject endorsed with Excellence in Art, Merit endorsed in English, Whinui Taonga (commitment to Te Reo Maaori me oona tikanga) and Kaitataki Tane (Outstanding male cultural leader). Tyla Gilmour, 2nd equal in Level 2, Excellence endorsed at level 2, subject endorsed with Excellence in English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Finally, Sera says:

“Thank you so much to the Waikato Plan for fast-tracking this fabulous funding. This event is integral to ensuring our rangatahi are better equipped to transition and that we know how and what supports we can continue to provide for them to succeed. Without people like Joe Wilson and Jami Dickson reaching out to our kura and helping us access support and funding, we would not have been able to truly give our rangatahi what they need”.


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