Springboard – the pioneering community programme for vulnerable youth based in Snells Beach – takes over iconic tourist attraction Sheepworld later this month, and will soon kick-off its annual fundraiser, Fund a Brighter Future. Mahurangi Matters spoke to one teen whose life was turned around after coming under the organisation’s wing …
Things started to go horribly wrong for Mahurangi teen Allie Telfer at age 13 after being sexually abused by two boys who attended the same school.
“I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I just knew that I felt very closed up about it and didn’t want to open up about it to anyone,” she says.
It didn’t help that she continued to see the offenders at school and unsympathetic classmates would taunt her with comments like, “Oh, you just wanted it.”
Allie, now 19, felt the school was not helpful at all – the bullying continued, she suffered from anxiety and depression, and began to feel increasingly isolated.
More and more she preferred to stay at home rather than face classes, and by the time she was 15, had dropped out completely.
Things then deteriorated further.
“I got into the drug and alcohol scene, which obviously was not great, and I ended up getting into trouble with the police,” she says.
Her offences meant she was obliged to attend a Learning Hub at Springboard Community Works in Snells Beach, in an effort to get her life back on track.
For Allie it proved a turning point. She found her tutors were eager to help her achieve whatever she wanted and both they and fellow students made her feel included.
“Instead of having an anxiety attack thinking about going to school, I was up and ready and waiting for the van to come and pick me up,” she says.
Allie says it helps that there was just one class of about 12 students – mainly girls – and there was no pressure to conform to any kind of stereotype. She says she had found at school if you were not sporty or academic, then you did not fit.
“The bonds we were able to form with fellow students at Springboard were quite different – everyone knew they had their own stuff going on. We helped each other. We were all cheering each other up,” she says.
“There was always somebody to talk to if something niggled at you or brought up some trauma.”
Allie says students were taught a range of life and practical skills. She especially remembers learning about business, Excel spreadsheets and calculating taxes – something she has been able to apply in her current job.
Even when Allie left Springboard and spent time in Australia, a Springboard counsellor would regularly call her and ask how she was getting on.
Allie says among the many things she is grateful for is being able to reconnect with her father – a relationship that had become estranged after she dropped out of school.
She says her Dad is so impressed with the change in her that during last year’s Springboard fundraising campaign, he chipped in $5000.
On Allie’s return from Australia, she began working at her father’s automotive workshop, handling reception and accounts – a job that spurred her to get further qualifications in accounting and to complete a business management diploma.
Three months ago, she got a dream job at Southern Paprika working in payroll and human resources.
“Back when I was 16, there is no way I would have thought I would be in the position I am now, earning the income I am now,” she says.
“I’m lucky that Springboard was there to support me and help guide me.”