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Woodford House (School) Launches "Shine Strengths" Mentor Programme, The First Of Its Kind In NZ

In a first for New Zealand schools, Woodford House launches its Mentor Programme “Shine”. The Shine Programme connects girls with innate strengths: resilience, adaptability, collaboration, and nine others.

This Friday, 7 August, the students welcome internationally recognised talents — musician Amanda Palmer, novelist Catherine Robertson, financial expert Sheila Patel and rising star Mihi Sorenson alongside 20 Hawke’s Bay women as Shine Mentors for their first on-campus workshop.

When Woodford House Principal Julie Peterson decided that 2020 was the year to launch Shine she had no idea that a global pandemic would arrive and threaten to shut down her dream of giving girls the tools to navigate the future with confidence. Instead of folding, or even delaying, she and the girls persevered to deliver a programme they all believed in.

Peterson, who came to Woodford House from St. Margaret’s College in Christchurch in 2015 said “Over my decades in education, mainly in single-sex schools, I realised that something was missing for girls. Our excellent academic programmes are not able to fully prepare them for the increasingly unpredictable world beyond their school years.”

Peterson envisioned a programme designed to connect girls with their innate Shine Strengths by offering self-awareness training, narrative interaction with mentors, and opportunities to practice their newly discovered strengths. She created an advisory team of girls and staff, and they spent months conducting research to determine the 12 Shine Strengths and the best way for girls to learn that they already have them and how to make the most of them. Although she is piloting the Shine Strengths Programme at Woodford House, her plan is to eventually share the programme, materials and mentor infrastructure with other schools and organisations who aim to help girls thrive.

Peterson explained that the Shine workshops are the starting point of six Shine modules. After each workshop there are two masterclasses that give the girls more insight into how to put strengths into action. Later this year Julie and her team will launch Shine Field Studies and Shine Start Ups where girls can get practice in using their strengths in the real world.

A foundation of the programme is narrative mentoring. Unlike traditional mentoring with one-to-one pairs and regular meetings, Shine Mentors meet with the girls as groups, share stories and break into even smaller groups to dig deeper.

Hannah Coltart, Shine Programme manager, responsible for building the Shine Mentor Team said ““Every woman we have told about Shine wants to be part of it. They understand how valuable these strengths are in finding personal satisfaction in life and are motivated to help girls gain this insight as early as possible. We have not even begun formal recruiting and we already have more than 50 women who have signed up”.

The International Shine Guest Mentors are: (Friday 7th August)

Amanda Palmer, who rose to fame with the Dresden Dolls, a punk cabaret duo in 2000 and went on to launch her solo career with a record-setting crowd-funded album, was in NZ finishing her world tour for her latest album “There Will Be No Intermission”. With Covid restrictions looming, she made the decision to lock down in Hawke’s Bay, where local friends helped her find a rental for her family. Palmer met people involved with Shine instantly wanted to be involved.

Catherine Robertson, NZ Bestselling Author. Catherine’s last two novels GABRIEL’S BAY and WHAT YOU WISH FOR have topped the best-seller lists in recent years. Since meeting Julie Peterson in 2019, Catherine signed on to direct the core workshops, with the two of them mapping out the “What Went Wrong | What Happened Next” workshop back in April (via Zoom)

Sheila Patel, Global Financial Markets Expert and Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Sheila recently moved into a holiday home in Hawke’s Bay with the plan of staying two weeks. She and her husband decided not to return to London as the pandemic unfolded, and through local friends was introduced to the Shine Programme. Patel is recognised as a world class mentor and believes that informal narrative mentoring can be more powerful than overly arranged relationships. It’s worked for her and she is excited to join the team and bring the approach to girls in Hawke’s Bay.

Mihi Sorensen, Lawyer with Oranga Tamariki | Ministry for Children. A rising star in the world of family law, Mihi is 23 years old and already making her mark in protecting the rights of children. After gaining her law degree at University of Canterbury, Mihi joined a traditional firm specialising in property development. Wanting to make a bigger difference in her community, Mihi pivoted to Oranga Tamariki. Mihi was a student of Peterson’s in her St. Margaret’s days, and Peterson has mentored her informally ever since.

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