Feel Good Friday: Connor's Story
A goal of our charity, the Young Hearts Project, is to change the lives of Kiwis. We do this through our donation programme, that sees $5 from every pair of full-price Deuce sneakers sold go towards the Young Hearts Project.
The Young Hearts Project partner with the MATES programme, run through Great Potentials. The MATES programme pushes young kiwis to reach their full potential through mentoring programmes and today, we spotlight on MATES mentor and coordinator Connor, to hear his story and how the Young Hearts Project has changed his life.
Walking The Talk
"I was a second-year psychology student who wanted some practical experience working with people, rather than reading theories, for a change. In my search, I came across the Mentoring and Tutoring Education Scheme (MATES), enabled by the Great Potentials Foundation and supported by the Young Hearts Project. I knew I had an interest in mental health, but MATES was the first time I was given the opportunity to work with young people."
"The first mentee I ever took on at MATES was called Nikau. Nikau joined the programme because he really needed support with his maths and writing, to ensure that his transition to high school was smooth and that new horizons opened for him through mentoring and tutoring."
"Coming from a Pakeha background I didn’t know much about his Māori culture and, at first, I also struggled. I knew that I had to be open and patient with my mentee and that he had a lot to teach me in our weekly after school session."
"We decided to split up our two-hour sessions; in the first half we worked on his maths and English and in the second half, he taught me about his life. The school had values like Whanaungatanga and Kaitiakitanga up on the walls in the library, values that I’d never heard of before. Nikau taught me their meaning and cultural significance and we agreed to embody these in our mentoring relationship."
"Throughout the year, I learnt about how important his family was to him and we bonded over our crazy aunts and funny family get-togethers. He had an older brother who had moved cities to work and didn’t have any family close to his age. I’d moved cities to study, and I found that by the end of the year I saw him as my little brother."
"Our goodbye ceremony at the end of the year was emotional! I realised culture wasn’t something to just learn about but something I had to experience and participate in. Every mentee I had in future years reminded me of Nikau because they had such different backgrounds that enriched my own life as well as theirs."
"Nikau made me realise that young people are often burdened with a lot of stereotypes surrounding them, when in fact they are intelligent, driven and wonderful people. I hope to say I helped Nikau the best I could, giving him advice, sharing my culture, and being a friend. At the very least I can guarantee he still knows his times tables!"
"I went into mentoring thinking I was going to change someone’s life and instead, as cheesy as it sounds, it was at MATES where I found my meaning in life. I knew after just a couple of hours with this young person that this is where I needed to be. "
"Since that year with Nikau, I changed my pathway to counselling. I continue to be a MATES coordinator, supporting and empowering new mentors to be the best champions they can be for our young people. I’m also a counsellor at an intermediate school – the same age as the students I’ve been working with at MATES – and am still growing and learning through them!"
"My experience with Nikau taught me that I don’t need to have everything in common with young people to be able to get on well with them. I found that being interested and open to hearing people’s stories is the best way to connect with those around me and to gain a deeper understanding of the world around me. Mentoring is a little bit like that; it’s not a one-way relationship, but an exchange of mutual respect and being there for one another. I am so grateful to the Young Hearts Project for supporting this vital work."
Connor’s inspiring testimony is one of many stories that show the great work behind those involved in The Young Hearts Project. Remember when buying any full-price pair of Deuce sneakers, $5 per sale goes towards these projects and changing the lives of our kiwi kids.