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How mentoring saved Bay teen's life
Bay of Plenty Times, Tauranga Bay of Plenty  by Samantha Motion
29 Sep 2017
General News - page 7 - 670 words - ID 852034831 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 411.00cm2

A FORMER Otumoetai College student has told how a mentoring programme helped her turn away from the destructive path she was heading down.

Last night Jessica Collins, 19, was among the honorees at the Graeme Dingle Foundation's Bay of Plenty Excellence Awards at ASB Arena.

The foundation's regional manager Dan Allen-Gordon said the awards recognised excellence in graduates of their three core programmes; Kiwi Can, Stars and Project K.

He said 4000 students in 10 Western Bay communities took part in mentoring programme Kiwi Can this year.

Last night an award was given to the students who most embodied each of the programmes' four themes: integrity, respect, positive relationships and resilience.

For Stars, 100 Year 13 mentors were paired with 400 Year 9 students across the district.

The foundation's namesake, mountaineer and outdoor education pioneer Sir Graeme Dingle, knighted in this year's Queens' Birthday Honours, attended the event.

He said hearing the students' transformative stories was "totally inspiring" and the best indication of the success and value of the work by teams around New Zealand.

Project K graduate Jessica Collins won the Alumni Award and gave a moving speech about how the programme saved her life.

Born into a dysfunctional household, she said she was labelled an "at-risk" child.

"By the age of 11, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol were no stranger," she said.

She was chosen for Project K at age 13 - also the age she first attempted suicide.

"Project K could not have come into my life at a better time.

"At that time, I did not believe there was any help that was going to be given to me, there was nobody to cry to." Jess said being chosen for the project made her feel important and like someone had seen potential in her that she could not see herself, she said.

The project was a 14-month journey that included a challenging 148km wilderness expedition on foot, bike and by kayak, a community project and a year of adult mentoring.

The experience changed everything for Jess, giving her new goals and direction.

At 15, she left "home" and went on the youth benefit.

She finished Year 13 confident and no longer scared, knowing her mentor was there for her and she was not alone.

"I am now 19, studying at Massey University and enjoying life." She said a PhD in Maori visual arts was among her goals for the future.

"I honestly, with my whole heart, don't think I would be alive today if it wasn't for Project K." Her mentor Ash Hemi said she was incredibly proud of Jess.

"I am very privileged to be walking this journey with her.

It's been a learning journey for me as well." Award winners Kiwi Can award winners Integrity award: Arianna Roberts, Papamoa Primary Respect award: Lennex Mohi, Te Puke Intermediate Positive Relationships: Ben Parsons, Te Puke Intermediate Resilience: Cole Jackson, from Katikati College Outstanding Kiwi Can leader: Shelby McRoberts Outstanding Kiwi Can school: Te Puke Intermediate.

Stars Mentoring Programme Awards Outstanding Year 9 student: Cory Stafford Excellence in Peer Mentoring: Karl Biddle Project K Excellence Awards Carta Buckley of Mount Maunganui College Amie Marchant of Otumoetai College Alumni Award: Project K graduate Jessica Collins Don Young Award: Vicky White IF YOU NEED HELP If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else: Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7) Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7) Youthline: 0800 376 633 Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7) Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm) Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7) Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 Samaritans 0800 726 666

Caption Text:
MENTORING: Jessica Collins, Sir Graeme Dingle and Ash Hemi at the Graeme Dingle Foundation Bay of Plenty Excellence Awards. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

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