Feel Good Friday: Andrew's Story
Through Deuce’s involvement with the Young Hearts Project, our charity created with the hope of changing lives, we’ve seen many awesome kiwi’s do great things. We achieve this through our donation programme, that sees $5 from every pair of full-price Deuce sneakers sold go towards the Young Hearts Project that funds these awesome initiatives. One of our partners, the MATES programme through Great Potentials, helps kiwi youth to reach their full potential through mentoring programmes. We caught up with MATES mentor, coordinator and regional manager Andrew, to hear his story and how the Young Hearts Project has changed his life.
The Value Of Education
My story begins in India, where I was born and spent my early years. Growing up, my mother always instilled a deep appreciation of the importance of education in me. As a child, her family struggled to make ends meet and mum would walk many miles each day to school with hand-me-down clothes, shoes and books from her older sister, often without lunch. She worked hard to secure scholarships to get into a good school and university.
For her, education was the lifeline that enabled her to support her parents and eventually move to NZ with her nine-year-old son. When we got here, mum saw how much I enjoyed literature and the arts and encouraged me to follow my passions. I was so lucky to have her mentoring, which eventually landed me at University studying English and music.
Meeting my Mentee
After my first year at university, I realised that education itself meant nothing if we couldn’t also empower other young people to reach their full potential, so I signed up as a mentor with the MATES mentoring programme, empowered by the Young Hearts Project. The mentee that most impacted my life was an awesome 12-year-old Tongan student that I met in my second year as a mentor.
My mentee was matched with me because we were both musicians and so that I could support him to be well prepared academically and socially for high school. We would play music and complete schoolwork together, but like a typical pair of boys, our bond was not very deep at the start of the year. While we made progress in literacy and numeracy, I increasingly realised that my mentee was often distracted, had written himself off and didn’t really know what the future had in store.
Drawing our Dreams
Our coordinator came in one day with large blank posters and a stack of magazines, so that we could each create a ‘dream board’ with our mentees. Our first task was to put our name in the middle of the poster using magazine cut-out letters. I went away to grab some tools and magazines for our table. When I came back, I saw that my mentee had already started on his name with a pencil. I sat down and quietly watched as he spent the first hour intensely designing his name, and then my own, with precise lines and an innate sense of space and colour.
When he finally came out of his focused hour of drawing, we had a long chat about his designs, and he pulled out a book filled with other things he had worked on during school. My mentee knew he was good at design, but never knew what he could do with his skills. I told him about some of the careers he could pursue, and he said that he wanted to look into architecture. The next week, I brought along some information about architecture careers. We stuck the degree into his dream board and later found out what subjects he would need to take at school to get into the course.
Seek out Distant Horizons
Despite our stoic appearance throughout the year, our goodbye was difficult and tearful. My mentee gave me a taonga, a beautiful fish-hook necklace, which I continue to wear to this day. My experience with my mentee led me to apply to become a coordinator, to support other mentors as they empower our young mentees to reach their full potential. Most of our mentors never get to see where their mentees get to, but as I continued to be involved in MATES as a coordinator and regional manager, I was lucky enough to keep in touch with my mentee through his younger siblings who went through the MATES programme as well. My mentee continued to pursue both design and visual communication and music at his school, coming top of his class in DVC many times.
This year he will have just finished school and I can’t wait to see the mark he will make on the world of creative arts and design. Next year, I too am heading off to seek distant horizons in a new role, but I will always carry my mentee’s story with me, for which I am forever grateful to Great Potentials Foundation and the Young Hearts Project. My mentee showed me that our greatest potential often lies just under our own noses and that every great design and story begins with a single stroke, whether in art or in life.
Andrew’s inspiring story is one of many testimonies that show the great work behind those involved in The Young Hearts Project. The Young Hearts Project is designed to impact the lives of our kiwi kids and help them reach their full potential. Remember when buying any full-price pair of Deuce sneakers, $5 per sale goes towards these projects.