Youth target challenges in Opotiki

JARED Tuoro helps focus the group on finding problems in Opotiki, and then fix them. Photos Eden Edwardson

FORTY-FIVE youth, parents, members of the community and business representatives attended the Future Leaders’ first meeting on Monday.

At the first workshop of the year, focus fell strongly on perspective, and how different perspectives could make a change.

Future leader Jared Tuoro was joined by catalysts Matthew Leaf and Eden Edwardson, who presented the community with the Future Leaders’ programme goals and plans.

The programme aims to assist youth in communities in overcoming challenges, as well as creating opportunities.

Opotiki Mayor John Forbes attended the evening and emphasised the importance of youth taking opportunities in the community.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to end up in a place of leadership.”

These opportunities are not limited to leadership with Mr Forbes encouraging youth just to help out as well.

“People helping out, volunteering, that’s what makes Opotiki a great place,” he said.

Mr Leaf agreed, comparing the Opotiki community to “one big whanau”.

Inspired, Opotiki youth came forward with ideas on the biggest opportunities and challenges in the town, through a series of activities.

Attendees agreed that Opotiki had a great environment, close-knit communities, and strong cultural presence but faced many challenges as well.

These included illegal activities, lack of opportunity, and a bad perspective preventing youth from moving up and forward.

The group then separated into teams and brainstormed what caused these problems, trying to find one main cause that could be targeted by the Future Leaders’ programme during the year.

After many hours of brainstorming, discussion and sharing ideas, teams boiled the problems down to their roots, concluding that all three were linked to influences on youth when growing up, and the choices they made because of those influences.

“A lack of knowledge and goals means [youth] don’t see all the opportunities,” said Opotiki College Rutherford house leader Jett Hunia.

“We need to get rid of the idea that achieving isn’t cool,” agreed Ngata house leader Brenna Dew.

By the end of the night, Mr Tuoro explained that these areas would be targeted in the community over the coming year, in an effort to elevate the youth of Opotiki.