13 January 2016

YouthGrow brings lasting success

Success comes in many guises. The first step towards success for YouthGrow students is finding a place where they fit in, and can thrive.

For the small team of people guiding our students, success is seeing positive change in a young person facing big challenges.

One of this year’s success stories is Andrew McBeath. Andrew graduated from the YouthGrow programme in July this year (you may recall reading about his graduation in our spring edition of People). Andrew is now studying viticulture in Central Otago, and enjoying the challenges and opportunities open to him. His journey over the past two years has been remarkable and a great testament to his commitment to working through the YouthGrow programme. He is absolutely ‘work ready and life ready’.

The positive impact of the YouthGrow programme endures long after students graduate. Chris McLaren is a great example of this.

Chris graduated from the YouthGrow programme in 2009. When he first joined the programme, he found it very difficult to connect with other people. Conversation did not come easily to Chris. His extreme shyness left Chris feeling isolated and disconnected. He felt abandoned by mainstream education and was at a loss as to how to turn things around.

On joining the YouthGrow programme Chris was assigned the role of leading hand to YouthGrow’s contract gardener, Barry Brydie.

“Pretty soon after I started working with Barry he had me setting goals, learning skills like time management, and seeing how a good work ethic could make such a difference. He wanted me to study for a NZQA unit in horticulture and I wasn’t keen. But after more encouragement I agreed, and it was good to get it,” Chris recalls.

“Aside from the gardening, YouthGrow helped me open up more to people. It was a very welcoming place that really cared about everyone there. Staff members were always there when I needed them. They really helped us all understand the value of hard work and the importance of attention to detail.”

After two years in the programme Chris secured a much sought-after horticultural apprenticeship with the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. Today he’s a valued senior member of staff at Evansdale Gardens in Southland.

When asked what advice he would give other young people thinking of joining YouthGrow, Chris said “Grasp every opportunity. Don’t let it go to waste.”
“I continue to thank the staff members and everyone behind the programme. Support from donors and others help make it a great success. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that support.”

An independent evaluation of the YouthGrow programme is currently being prepared for publication and will be available in January 2016. It’s findings confirm a broad range of enduring, positive benefits experienced by participants.