Published: 03/07/2014

Desiree Leauga (DJ) left high school at the age of 16 years, not because she didn’t think schooling was valuable, but simply because traditional schooling wasn’t an enjoyable learning experience for her personally. “I was only attending music at High School because I wasn’t enjoying the rest of it. So I left and dropped out. My passion was music but I couldn’t even get into the music course I liked because I had no qualifications and I needed my NCEA level 2” says DJ.

Within a week of dropping out of High School, DJ registered with Youth Service West (Youth Horizons) for assistance and to support her with her aspirations of continuing education and a desire to follow her passion in the music industry.

“Once I registered with Youth Service West, I was offered support and encouragement that met my individual goals. Within a week of leaving school I was with a group that seemed to understand me. The personal advisor that was supporting me got to know me and my passions, and gave me so many options to pursue and before I knew it I was re-enrolled into a local education provider called Education Action that I chose myself. I have now completed my NCEA level 1 course in hospitality, got my CV updated, and I graduate with my NCEA level 2 qualification next week. I was also supported to get my driver’s license last week too which I’m really happy about.”

Youth Horizons CEO, Cath Handley, said that the Evaluation Report of Youth Services seems to capture progress accurately. “There is a real sense of knowing what the goalposts are in the Youth Services, and those who work alongside young people are very focussed on guiding young people towards fulfilment as well as achievement. The NCEA success rates are ahead of our projections, and there are fewer young people on Work and Income support than was projected. That’s good for everyone, most especially these young people who are tasting success in varying forms.”

DJ’s story is one of many good stories that go unheard. DJ’s individual needs were met, and her success is now an inspiration to those around her. “At the time I dropped out of High School, I felt like I wanted to do something and not just sit around doing nothing. My confidence and self-esteem was quite low though and I didn’t have much hope for a future. But look at me now. I feel better, my confidence is high and I also have lots of focus and direction which is cool. But I also know that I’ve been a good influence on family and friends. My success has influenced my best friend to return to her education and she is now studying hospitality full-time too! I was given so much ongoing support and advice from Youth Service West to not only choose a pathway that suited me, but the encouragement along the way was what I needed at a time when I dropped out of school”.

Now at 17 years of age and with the attainment of her level 2 NCEA next week, DJ not only has aspirations of entering the original music program that was once not available to her for lack of qualifications, but she is also considering other options that she has developed a passion for Chef School and hospitality, “the world is my oyster now and I couldn’t be happier. I love learning and I’m so glad I could find the education pathway that suited me, and the support has been amazing!”

Not bad for a young person who found that traditional education wasn’t for her. A great story that can inspire peers, family and others around her.


Read the full Youth Service Evaulation Report here.