This was certainly the case for Asaeli Pene who featured in the first of four stories about young people conquering adversity and finding their way, this time last year.
After enduring a very rough time in his early teens, he went to a course about conflict resolution and he heard a powerful speech at Nga Manu Korero. He started searching for purpose in his life and success began to unfold.
The first in his family to complete high school, he graduated in 2016 and took the following year to explore how to form a career helping young people.
By the end of 2017 he was a volunteer and member of the Whangarei Youth Space Board of Trustees, was a member of Council’s Youth Advisory Group and was enrolled to start a degree in applied social work in 2018 at NorthTec. We asked him how things had gone this year.
“The past year has been life-changing and has reshaped my journey in life. I am more aware about the issues and the history our people. I aim to connect with and bring change for my Pasifika side as well, which is a way for me to balance my two cultures.
“Over the year I have met so many Rangatahi. I have met members from different boards, politicians even the Prime Minister (whom he welcomed on the behalf of the youth of Whangarei at Forum North).
“I started my Bachelor of Applied Social Work Degree through NorthTec, which has introduced me back into education. My passion for music has gone to another level with our hip hop group Creative MINDZ which has become a big part of my life.
“There’s Mahanga Daniels (Brother MarZ), Tj Hohaia (Saes), Tairawhiti Poa (Stonecold) and myself (Tempest). The idea of the group started in Kamo High which Mahanga and Tj were attending at the time and which Tai still attends. All three were making music.
A conversation with Youth Space youth worker Jackson, inspired both Mahanga and Tj, with the name Creative MINDZ and our group came into being. To me, this was a good example of Youth-Adult Partnership.”
Asaeli met group member Mahanga at “National Poem Day” at Youthspace.
“I met MarZ at the Space. He saw that I could write and he told me he could produce and make beats. MarZ and I both started a Work Ready course and my part of the journey in Creative MINDZ started.
“Our music has messages that people need, especially young people. Instead of selling dreams we talk about things from a more realistic approach, as youth.
“I’ve known the group for just over a year and we are tight. We are a brotherhood. We’ve been together for a year and have worked alongside Empire Dance Studio who held a showcase at OneOneSix, have been involved with the Otangarei Arts Kollective (OTAK) mural, performed at both Matariki Festivals in town and Otangarei and being part of AIGA (family) day at Forum North.
“Our most recent performance was in Kawerau where we travelled alongside the Cover Up Project to support a youth-led event called InSpire which was our first gig as the whole team and out of Whangarei.
“We provide a foundation where people are encouraged to speak about similar issues or the issues they have faced in their lifetime. Young people avoid talking so we want to break this cycle through music. A voice for the voiceless. We encourage people to use their voice and to understand how important it is to utilize it.”
Asaeli was also accepted into the national TUIA Leadership Programme which involves local Mayors selecting young Maori from their district to mentor on monthly basis to enhance leadership skill development. Asaeli is the second TUIA representative for Whangarei.
“TUIA has become part of my life now. It’s amazing to come in to a space where Rangatahi come together from all over Aotearoa New Zealand that share the same passion as yourself”.
“Growing up I found it hard to belong and Youth Space has helped me overcome that. There was a time where I was challenged by someone for giving my opinion. Youth-Adult partnership made a difference.
“Jackson and I attended the education conference based in Auckland back in May. I was confident enough to explain more from my view and I knew that I could fall back on him. I normally freak out in that situation but Jacksons support and guidance was amazing and shows me just how important and needed youth workers are. This also demonstrates what Youth-Adult Partnership is all about.
“Regardless of where you are in life if you don't have a set plan, don’t be hard on yourself. Many people including myself have been there before and that it's completely natural to feel a little lost.
It's also handy to get an idea of who you are and to know where your heart sits with you.“
The best piece of advice I have been given is to trust the process. Once you find something you are truly passionate about, keep yourself grounded to achieve your goals. If an opportunity comes your way that aligns to your passion then grasp it.
“You have no idea where an opportunity will lead you to and this has been one of the best parts of my journey.”