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At-risk youth: What stories will inspire them?

Our research was noted for inclusion in the 2011 New Zealand Diversity Research Overview of Race Relations. This report is New Zealand's contribution to the UN Human Rights Convention.

Engaging multi-cultural at-risk youth in transition to tertiary education and the workplace.
Annick Janson,
Associate Researcher, Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington and Ecosynergy Group Ltd, Hamilton.

This research documents the factors that increase secondary school drop out rates. The research team  surveyed and interviewed 25 youth educators and carried in-depth interviews with 25 young role models to analyse the coping mechanism effective against early risk factors.

Role models were New Zealanders of European/Pākehā, Māori, dual heritage and mixed ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds nominated for their achievements by a reference group of educators and youth workers. In interviews about their life choices and career pathways they related how the coped with early challenges and the lessons they learnt in the process. These role models would not normally interact with at-risk youth. They are only at the onset of their careers, hence not in the limelight.

Thematic analysis of the stories uncovered elements from three topics: strengthening identity through personal growth, Enablement through interpersonal development and Post-secondary transition mechanisms.

Narratives expand on how these young people coped with the stresses that characterise teenage years, peer group and educational environment in ways that allowed them to turn obstacles into strengths. Stories include for instance transforming tendencies towards obesity into sports championship or becoming resilient to negative peer pressure by developing a supporting alternative peer network. Obstacles are explained as inevitable parts of one’s pathway with descriptions of turning points (“you can get back on the waka at anytime if you find yourself straying away from your path.”)

The compendium of stories from these future transformational leaders forms a series of unique and inspirational audio-visual materials available to youth educators. View a trailer from these interviews below:

An interactive resource was developed with activities reinforcing the story themes. Youth workers will use this resource to help derail risk factors and increase youth involvement in educational and community-based extracurricular activities. The long-term aim is to support at-risk secondary students in developing goals that inspire them to shape personal opportunities in transition from secondary education.

The project is run in partnership with AIESEC New Zealand and in collaboration with 40 schools and youth development organisations throughout New Zealand.  The project is funded by the Todd foundation. 

Reference URL for this post - http://tinyurl.com/rolemodelexcerpts