Pro­ject K pair now firm friends

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JOE DAW­SON

PENNY McE­wan and Jain Kolone grad­u­ated from the Pro­ject K men­tor­ing pro­gramme last June.

And they have such a strong bond the Epsom char­ity fundraiser and the Otahuhu teenager have kept in touch ever since and now con­sider them­selves friends.

The duo met two years ago af­ter One Tree Hill Col­lege pupil Jain, 16, was se­lected as some­one who would ben­e­fit from Pro­ject K, the Foun­da­tion for Youth De­vel­op­ment run course which sees teenagers go through a con­fi­dence boost­ing se­ries of ex­pe­ri­ences.

The aim of the pro­gramme is to use the back­drop of New Zealand’s out­doors to help 13 to 15-year-olds who lack self­con­fi­dence or with other fac­tors hold­ing their de­vel­op­ment back.

The pro­gramme in­spires young peo­ple to reach their full po­ten­tial through build­ing self-con­fi­dence, teach­ing es­sen­tial life skills such as goal set­ting and team­work and pro­mot­ing good health and a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.

As well as hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant out­door ex­pe­ri­ence, the young­sters are teamed up with an adult men­tor to help them set goals and ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent as­pects of the world.

But Penny says she has got as much from the pro­gramme as Jain.

‘‘I came to it be­cause I re­alised I had room in my life par­tic­u­larly around chil­dren and young peo­ple and it was some­thing I wanted to bring into my life more,’’ Penny says.

‘‘For me I’m a dif­fer­ent sort of per­son in Jain’s world and I hoped I would open some doors and show her some new things but I’ve gained more than I ex­pected to.’’

The pair came to­gether at a day when men­tors and mentees met for the first time. Fol­low­ing a day of ac­tiv­i­ties a ‘‘speed dat­ing’’ process was held to see which peo­ple would gel.

‘‘We sat in a cir­cle and spent five min­utes with each other and at the end we got to write down who we thought we would con­nect with and we had cho­sen each other.

‘‘We of­fi­cially grad­u­ated in June last year but at the end of the for­mal part we said we wanted to stay in touch.’’

For Jain hav­ing Penny as a men­tor and mate has helped bring her out of her shell.

‘‘So­cially wise she has re­ally helped,’’ Jain says.

‘‘Be­fore I used to be so shy in group sit­u­a­tions. Meet­ing Penny it kind of helped me talk to peo­ple more so a lot of doors and op­por­tu­ni­ties have opened for me.’’

The pair bonded over a shared love of mu­sic – Jain is a tal­ented singer – and many of the goals they set have been around that.

In fact in the last year Jain won the Dame Pat Evi­son Schol­ar­ships Award for the arts which has seen her re­ceive singing and gui­tar lessons and has per­formed at Govern­ment House.

Aca­dem­i­cally things are on the up too.

‘‘My dad’s no­ticed a huge dif­fer­ence in my school­ing.

‘‘Be­fore I was OK but since Pro­ject K I’ve be­come bet­ter at school be­cause I’m goal set­ting – I’m now get­ting mer­its and ex­cel­lents.’’

Photo: JOE DAW­SON

Mates: Penny McE­wan and Jain Kolone have built on the re­la­tion­ship forged dur­ing the Pro­ject K men­tor­ing pro­gramme.

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