Meet first-year Youth Work student, Isabella

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First-year New Zealand Diploma in Youth Work student Isabella Erika chose to study so she can learn more about empowering youth to succeed in today’s world. We spoke to Isabella about where her passion for helping the youth of New Zealand began, her experience studying, and what her plans are for the future.  

What made you choose youth work? 

I believe youth are our future and that their potential is overlooked. I love empowering and seeing our young people succeed in today’s world.  

My first experience with youth was as a peer mentor at high school with the Graeme Dingle foundation, helping the Year 9’s settle in. That was my first time being a youth mentor of any sort and it was a nightmare because I didn’t know much! I then started doing leadership programmes at the YMCA in Tokoroa, and helping out with their school holiday programmes. 

The more training I did with YMCA, the more passion I developed for youth work. The work we did at YMCA was based around our community – specifically the Pacific Island community. It was a really good experience to get me started. 

You’re studying the New Zealand Dip in Youth work, how are you finding that so far? 

It's just really cool to learn more about something you love. There’s a real family atmosphere in the classroom. It adds another layer of reassurance knowing that we’re all in this together.  

When I need a hand I can go to my classmates, my tutors, and Pacific Engagement Advisors like Leisha. Knowing that there’s always someone to help is really encouraging. 

Explore our Pacific student support →

Pacific ākonga are a vital part of community life at Whitireia and WelTec. We have programmes, networks and a strong Pacific team who work across our Porirua, Petone and Wellington campuses to help you succeed. 

Is there any subject that you’re particularly enjoying? 

My favourite thing we’ve learnt so far is how to build intentional relationships. That’s about building trust with someone, so they feel like they’re in an open and safe space to talk freely. It’s all about non-verbal communication and asking open-ended questions. As a bit of a shy person, I’m finding it really intriguing. 

We're also taught a lot about the importance of your own wellbeing. A saying that’s often used is “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. 

What do you want to do after you’ve graduated? 

I want to work in Māori and Pacific communities, a big focus for me is to give back to my own people. But wherever I go I’ll be happy, as long as I'm working with youth.  

Where are you doing your placement? 

Currently I’m at Partners Porirua. We help them with youth benefits, drivers licensing, emergency housing, all of that. It’s a safe space for kids to come in.  

We saw you recently represented Youth Work at Whitireia and WelTec at the launch of Youth Week 23’. How was that? 

To be honest it was one of the best experiences I've had since moving down to Wellington. It’s really empowering to see so many people behind our youth in NZ. 

They spoke about what youth workers can do to develop youth, and highlighted the importance of youth work, which is always encouraging. 

My favourite was a spoken poem, which really represented brown people. It’s just nice seeing youth have a voice, especially Samoan youth.

Study Youth Work at Whitireia 

If helping young people thrive is a passion, then our youth development programme will be perfect to study. Gain on-the-job work experience while studying that'll help shape the future of Aotearoa. Our youth development is accredited by Korowai Tupu. 

Explore our Youth Work programmes →

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