A group of 22 remarkable young Kiwis, mentors, volunteers and leaders have been celebrated for their resilience, self-belief and contribution to society at the annual Graeme Dingle Foundation’s 2018 Excellence Awards, held in Auckland last night.

It was an opportunity to celebrate more than 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 CanStarsCareer Navigator, Project K and MYND over the previous 12 months. 

The evening celebrated the incredible achievements of these amazing young people, many who have bounced back from hardship and conquered immense challenges to chart a positive course through life.

The Foundation’s namesake, mountaineer and outdoor education pioneer, co-founder Sir Graeme Dingle, 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 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 blow me away with their courage, determination and resilience. Above all else, 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 really proud of,” concludes Sir Graeme.

For the 250 who attended, the evening was an opportunity to hear the personal stories of a number of graduates who had taken part in the Foundation’s transformational journey, and the positive impact It has on their lives.

The 2018 Sir Edmund Hillary Youth Achievement Award went to 21-year old Acer Ah Chee-Wilson from Auckland, a former Waitakere College student and graduate of the Project K programme who completely defied the odds and turned his life around.

Acer says Project K helped him to build self-confidence and become the person he wanted to be, not the person he was destined to be.

“My brothers and I would steal radios and sell them, steal cars and crash them, break windows of homes and cars. I was 14 and I was naughty, hated school and wanted to drop out early. I was shy and anti-social, I only wanted to keep to myself. Then I was introduced to Project K.

“My mentor Tony saw me once a week in and out of school. He always made sure I was on track with my school work and kept me out of trouble. Tony believed in me like no one else ever did and because of him, I stayed in school, went to University and now have a full-time job as an arborist. One day I plan to be a mentor.

“The person I used to be is in the past, the mischief, the bad man, is no longer. I’ve looked further into the future, to where I want to be and to who I’m going to be,” concludes Acer.

The annual Excellence Awards began life as the Project K Outstanding Student Award. They were first hosted by Governor General, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, almost 20 years ago. The Awards provide an opportunity to honour and celebrate outstanding young New Zealanders across all of the Foundations programmes throughout New Zealand.

The full list of 2018 Award Recipients is as follows:

Sir Edmund Hillary Youth Achievement Award

For a Graeme Dingle Foundation Project K graduate who has gone on to achieve excellence.

Acer Ah Chee-Wilson – Former Waitakere College, West Auckland

Outstanding Kiwi Can School Award supported by Mitre 10

For running an impeccable Kiwi Can programme and producing wonderful results

Bluff School, Southland

Outstanding Contribution from a Kiwi Can Leader Team Award supported by NZ Steel

Presented to Kiwi Can leaders to recognise their wonderful contributions, making a difference to the lives of young people.

Taimo Patrick Matau & Brittney Falanitama, Papatoetoe West School, South Auckland

Sharon Te Hiko and Angus Adams-Fyfe, Redwoodtown School, Marlborough

Stars - Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor Award supported by Sanitarium

To acknowledge the great contribution of Stars Peer Mentors who are making a significant difference in the lives of juniors in their school

Shardey Harris, Hornby High School, Christchurch

Hawea Solomon, Tokoroa High School, Waikato

Imran Tautu, Bishop Viard College, Wellington

Fiona Blaser, Rutherford College, West Auckland

Outstanding Achievement of a Career Navigator Student Award supported by Bidfood

To acknowledge outstanding progress made by a graduate of the Career Navigator programme.

Rea Toma, Fairfield College, Waikato

Charlie Ryan, Ngaruawahia High School, Waikato

Project K Excellence Awards supported by Stride

For Graduates of Project K who have shown outstanding commitment to the programme and made significant changes in their lives.

Brylee Comer, Mount Maunganui College, Bay of Plenty

Kane Avery, Otumoetai College, Bay of Plenty

Enya Perese, Auckland Girls Grammar, South Auckland

Marara Havea, Auckland Girls Grammar, South Auckland

MYND – Youth Achievement Award supported by Lion

To acknowledge the achievement and progress demonstrated by a MYND graduate so their journey can be shared, celebrated and used to inspire others.

Ysrael Walters, Auckland

Kiwi Tahi Achievement Award supported by Perpetual Guardian

Kiwi Tahi is an early intervention programme to prevent a young person’s escalation or involvement in the Justice system.

Q’wy Stuchburry, Papatoetoe Intermediate School, Auckland

Outstanding Programme Coordinator Award supported by THL

To acknowledge the efforts and continued commitment of a Graeme Dingle Foundation staff member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment, innovation and leadership to their peers, students, schools and community.

Tony Yuretich, West Auckland

Shane Spencer, Southland

Outstanding Contribution Award supported by Oji Fibre Solutions

This award is given to a member of the Graeme Dingle Foundation whānau (wider community), who has tirelessly contributed to the success of the Foundation, usually over a long period of time.

Dan Allen-Gordon, Bay of Plenty

Excellence Awards 2018

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Acer Ah Chee-Wilson and Sir Graeme Dingle

Rea Toma - Career Navigator

Stars - Outstanding Contribution from a Peer Mentor Award supported by Sanitarium

Sir Edmund Hillary Youth Achievement Award