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A Henderson school and seven of Auckland’s most inspiring young Kiwis were recognised for their outstanding achievements at the Graeme Dingle Foundation 2019 Excellence Awards, held in Auckland last night.

Pomaria Primary School won the Kiwi Can Outstanding School Award, sponsored by Mitre 10, recognising the successes of a school which works in partnership with the Graeme Dingle Foundation to help shape and improve the values and life skills of their young people through Kiwi Can.

Kiwi Can is a life skills and values programme for Year 1-8 students (5 to 12-year olds) that is run in over 100 primary or intermediate schools around New Zealand. The programme promotes a ‘can-do’ attitude and encourages children to take responsibility for their actions.

Joshua Manning and Lara Craigie were awarded the Stars – Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor Award, sponsored by THL, for the quality of their mentoring and being positive role models within the school community.

Stars is a school-based programme for all Year 9 students (13 to 14 year olds) designed to facilitate the successful transition of students into secondary school, with senior Year 12 and 13 students (17 to 18 year olds) trained as peer mentors. The programme develops self-confidence, leadership and life skills and creates a sense of community by bringing younger and older students together.

Stars programme coordinator Alistair Boyd says Joshua Manning and Lara Craigie fully deserve their awards.

“Josh is one of the most respectful, outgoing, kind and cool people I’ve met. From the first day of year 9 when we met our peer mentors, he’s just stood out, in a way he’s like a teacher in my eyes. He engages with the class and discusses other things such as our character values and how we should treat one another and people in general.

“Lara Craigie is an ideal role model. She has built positive relationships with her peer mentor class and is able to deal with demanding students. Based on her positive nature and ability to deal with various personalities it’s easy to see how she will grow into a natural leader.”

Keanu Pene, Matthew McCarthy and Mollie Evans won the Project K – Excellence Award, sponsored by Bidfood, for their outstanding achievements as Project K students.

Project K is a positive youth development programme that targets Year 10 students (13 – 15-year olds) with untapped potential, with the goal of improving their mental, social and physical well-being. The 14-month programme builds self-confidence, promotes health and education skills and helps students to set and achieve goals with the support of trained adult mentors.

Project K programme coordinator Alyssa Carr says of Mollie Evans’ award: “Mollie started her journey in Project K as a capable young woman with a lot of potential, but struggled and would quickly admit self-defeat. Through her journey, she was open to the growth and challenge all aspects of Project K and life presented, becoming a highly-confident young woman.

“Mollie developed a high level of resilience, not giving up when meeting conflict – rather using it as an opportunity to grow and move forward. She encourages those around her to have a wider engagement and care for others.”

The Kiwi Tahi Award, sponsored by Foundation North, went to Taati Tahana for progress made since completing the programme more than 3 years ago. Kiwi Tahi is a ‘prevention’ and ‘early intervention’ community-based service working with 8 -12 year olds considered highly vulnerable or ‘at risk’ due to negative influences or multiple risk factors. The intent is to act as a circuit breaker to prevent an escalation into social services or the justice system, bringing life-skills to strengthen a sense of identity, school engagement, improve inter-personal skills and pro-social behaviour.

The audience at the ceremony heard that Taati continues to beat the odds. He was only nine years old when he joined the programme, being considered by the Police and other professionals as ‘highly vulnerable’ of becoming a statistic due to family members having fallen foul of the law.

Kiwi Tahi helped him to see the true value of shaping his own identity and taking control of his own future. Now, he has just turned 13 and will be attending Manurewa High School in the New Year with hopes of becoming a professional sportsman.

The MYND Youth Achievement Award was presented to Dontae Marino by Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor General of New Zealand and Snr Sgt Steven Smith, NZ Police

MYND is a well-established and research based programme that has been in operation for 18 years.  It is community based that works with serious male offenders 14 to 17 years who have come to the notice of Police and Oranga Tamariki (the Ministry for Children) through offending and anti-social behaviour. The aim of the programme is to create attitudinal and behavioural change to reduce the severity and frequency of offending.  The programme is highly intensive using specially trained personnel to tackle the complex needs of those referred through the Youth Court process.

Dontae shared that he saw a lot of violence and was exposed to a lot of drugs and alcohol growing up.  He moved between different family members and never really had anywhere ‘stable’ to live.  He dropped out of the education system at 12 years old and got involved with the wrong crowd which led to doing crime.  He was with MYND for over 8 months and made a lot of positive changes.  He finished MYND in May 2018 and continues to move forward with a focus on the future.

The Auckland winners received their awards on an evening which celebrated the over 27,000 students, their mentors, leaders and volunteers across the country who have been involved in the Foundation’s various youth development programmes including Kiwi Can, Stars, Career Navigator, Project K, Kiwi Tahi and MYND – over the previous 12 months.

It also celebrated the incredible achievements of these amazing young people, many of whom have conquered immense challenges to chart a positive course through life.

The Foundation’s co-founder Sir Graeme Dingle, the mountaineer and outdoor education pioneer, says the Awards perfectly showcase what the Foundation lives and breathes – transforming young lives forever.

“The ethos of our Foundation is that we want all young New Zealanders to have a life full of possibilities so they can achieve their dreams and make the most of their unique talents. We want to help them build foundations for success.

“The Awards are an amazing opportunity to celebrate this country’s future – our children and our young people. It provides a valuable platform for them to recognise their own strengths and muster, from within, the conviction to overcome challenges, both big and small. It is also a wonderful reminder of the incredible work that our mentors and volunteers deliver, day in and day out, for children and young people throughout the country.

“Each year, these kids show courage, determination and resilience. It gives me a tremendous sense of joy to be able to recognise and acknowledge each and every one of our winners, who we are all so exceptionally proud of,” concludes Sir Graeme.

The annual Excellence Awards began life as the Project K Outstanding Student Award. They were first hosted by Governor General, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, 19 years ago. The Awards provide an opportunity to honour and celebrate outstanding young New Zealanders across all of the Foundation’s programmes throughout New Zealand.

Released by the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

For more information, please contact: Pam Smith on
or 09 477 6244.

About the Graeme Dingle Foundation

  • The Graeme Dingle Foundation is the highly successful youth charity named in recognition of Kiwi adventurer and personality Sir Graeme Dingle who founded the not-for-profit organisation with his partner Jo-anne Wilkinson in 1995.
  • Sir Graeme and Lady Dingle had a vision to improve New Zealand’s negative youth statistics. They have helped over 250,000 young Kiwis be more confident, find purpose and direction, and achieve success.
  • An Infometrics report in 2019 found that New Zealand benefits to the tune of nearly $8 for every $1 invested in the Graeme Dingle Foundation, in the form of reduced crime, young people getting better jobs and fewer young people becoming dependent on benefits.
  • The Graeme Dingle Foundation continues to run school-based programmes for thousands of Kiwis aged between 5 and 18 – Kiwi Can, Stars, Career Navigator and Project K, along with MYND (an Auckland based programme for youth offenders). These initiatives aim to broaden horizons, offer opportunities and give young people the chance to become the next generation of successful parents, leaders and business people.
  • For more information visit


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