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A celebration of strength and character

A celebration of strength and character

A special ceremony to celebrate youngsters who display ‘he pito mata’, or strong character against the odds, was held in October.

Each year the Youth Potential Awards are held to celebrate Hastings youth aged 12 to 19 who are getting on and achieving despite facing personal challenges or adversity. The award categories are Tane (Male), Wahine (Female) and Ropu (Group).

For 14-year-old KJ Kemp, the award made her realise just what she was achieving. Her way of coping with the “pain and pressure” of losing close friends and family in a short space of time was to keep busy and help in her community – although she had not realised how busy she was, until the awards evening.

As well as being fully involved in school and completing all her homework, every weekday the youngster heads to Te Aka Whai Kura (after school and holiday programme) who will be celebrating their 10th year of services to the community, to teach kapa haka and assist the kaimahi. She also helps during the school holidays. KJ has been performing kapa haka for as long as she can remember, first going on stage as a 5-year-old. She continues to perform in her own right – and hopes to head off on an overseas culture trip to Italy next year with the Te Tono a Te Taurapa Senior Kapa haka group, after competing in the regional kapa haka competition.

“I realised I am busy and I am a role model. I really like coming to Te Aka; watching them [the kids] grow and knowing I can help them because I’ve been where they are,” KJ said.

She has big plans for the future – including travel; plans her nominator and Te Aka Charitable Trust kaihautu/chief executive and founder Alayna Hokianga, is convinced she will achieve. “Her strength and passion cannot be over-stated. KJ has become confident in herself and her abilities and has so much to offer. She is a caring and kind-hearted young person who many of our younger children look up to. Along with her very support whanau, we are all proud of KJ’s achievements.”

It was the sixth year of the awards. This year’s speakers included Miss New Zealand Harlem-Cruze Ihaia and Te Aka Cultural Advisor & Facilitator- Thompson Hokianga.

Youth Council liaison councillor Malcolm Dixon said the speakers were “exceptional . . . They had come from similar backgrounds to some of these youth and they were able to talk to them about the benefits of continuing to try, setting goals, so that you can achieve.

“These youngsters, despite the challenges they have faced, have a strong work ethic. It’s important we recognise effort and achievement at all levels, and these awards are part of that.”

This year’s award recipients were Alycia Harris (Hasting District Youth Council); Caleb Fussell (Hastings District Youth Council); KJ Kemp (Te Aka); Keisha Rarere (Te Aka); Tatiana Whare-Fletcher (Te Aka); Tu-Matangaro Hokianga (Te Aka); Conrad Anderson (Giants Boxing); Sam Nicol (Giants Boxing); Rongo Maaka (Basketball Academy); Jershon Tatana (Basketball Academy); Dreh Dahl (Basketball Academy); Tzar Smiler (Basketball Academy); Phoenix Pomana (Basketball Academy); Te Aratika basketball team (Te Aratika).

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