The registered charity, which works in partnership with the Police, delivers a whole range of youth activities, experiences and programmes, says Blue Light Central Taranaki co-ordinators Saskia Mills and Senior Constable Simon Howard.
“We have come a long way since Blue Light discoes through positive policing over 35 years,” Simon says.
About 45 to 50 young people take part in the Central Taranaki programmes each year. Some are referred because they are vulnerable kids and others become involved because they are youth offenders.
Of those young offenders who become part of the Blue Light initiative, 80 per cent don’t ever reoffend.
The programme involves inspirational tailor-made day trips to places of interest to the young people, including visits to the Performing Arts College in Wellington, the Tourism and Travel College in Hamilton, the Air Force at Ohakea in the Manawatu, the Police College in Porirua – and more.
“We try to work out what they are into at the time. We often see a graduation,” says Saskia, who works part-time in the co-ordinating role funded by the TSB Community Trust.
“The young people get to hear from people who have been through it and can offer some guidance or a pathway forward for the group. We want to give them a reason to stay engaged in education and get at least NCEA Level 2.”
There are also bigger, life-changing trips.
Earlier this year, seven girls and eight boys, aged 14 to 17, completed the Tongariro Crossing with Saskia, four Police Officers, a Mental Health Nurse, a Youth Justice Co-ordinator and a Youth Mentor from MENTOA.
“When it was hard, everybody was supporting each other. Once you are going through it with them, those barriers are dropped. They were saying, ‘you can do it Sas’.”
“You get to walk with them and hear their stories,” Simon says. “You do a needs assessment of their life – what do we do to change this concrete pathway to crime?”
Blue Light also runs a drivers’ licence programme. The youngsters are paired with a driving navigator, who they go out with once a week for about 20 weeks. “There are so many barriers for young people getting their licences,” she says.
Gaining a driver’s licence can help young people get jobs and prevent a slide into crime. “You would be alarmed at how many people’s first offence is a driving offence,” Simon says.
There are other Blue Light national experiential learning programmes young people can be referred to, including a back-to-basics life skills course with the New Zealand Defence Force and leadership camps.
Blue Light, also operating in north and south Taranaki, encourages better relations between the Police, young people, their parents and the community.
“The whole ethos is to inspire youth to want better for their futures,” Simon says.