The Blue Light navigator programme is urgently seeking volunteers to help youth learn to drive.
The pilot programme has 43 students waiting to be paired with volunteers.
“We need a lot of support, more adult volunteers who have had their full license for over two years, and have had a good amount of driving experience,” says Blue Light youth driver coordinator, Elliot Hira.
The initiative removes barriers that prevent youth from getting their licence, including lack of funds, no access to a suitable vehicle or person who can teach them to drive. Youth are referred to the programme by Police, schools and community organisations.
Navigator Brett Williamson is in his third year of volunteering for Blue Light. He says the programme can make a massive difference for youth in the long run.
“Things can get quite tough for these young people through no fault of their own, and they might not get the opportunity to learn how to drive.
“You get a lot of satisfaction out of it and it really isn’t hard. All my role is, is to give these young people some time in a car to guide them.
“If you can contribute something, and you can help them get a head start, why not do it?”
Elliot emphasises the importance of youth having their licence, saying it is a ticket to a lot of different pathways.
“Having a license for a young person is a sense of independence, an achievement and a prerequisite to some careers that they might one day choose.”
Brett says the programme struck a chord with him because as an employer he has had to turn people away in the past due to them not having their licence.
“If a young fella with potential comes knocking on the door, and they haven’t got their licence, it can be difficult to employ them.
“When they explain how the programme works, and how it impacts other young people, it really drives it home. That’s why I decided to give it a go.”
Both Brett and Elliot agree that the number one character trait a navigator needs is patience.
“All students are different in their capabilities so you have to be particularly understanding if something goes wrong, you need to have an ability to help them relax,” says Brett.
“You have to have a lot of patience, be caring, and have to be able to guide the students as an adult mentor,” adds Elliot.
“As a teacher, you shape how the driver will turn out, if you are going to be really angry, then you need to be aware of what sort of student you are going to create.”
Brett is on a roll with his students so far, with all five of them passing their restricted licence on the first try.
“You get a lot of satisfaction when you get a photo of them holding up their restricted license.
“The students feel an overwhelming sense of achievement, it’s quite a significant milestone when they pass the practical tests,” says Elliot.
The programme has a pass rate of 81 per cent, which is 20 per cent above the national average.
An information evening about how to become a volunteer is being held on Wednesday, July 10, at The Kollective, 17th Avenue, Tauranga from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. To RSVP email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 08800 258 354.