A cool King
Phildjon Heurea has lost count of all the schools he's been kicked out of.
There haven't been many teachers who can handle him, the 16-year-old says.
The only one who could also happened to be his uncle and he helped him for a short time.
"Apart from that I've never had much support."
Phildjon's parents have also struggled to deal with his behaviour throughout his life, he says.
"I'd take things without asking or go out for a walk and not come back."
Now the Mangere teen is turning it all around with the help of comedian Mike King.
The pair catch up regularly - mostly "just to talk and have some fun", Phildjon says.
And the conversations are making all the difference.
"Rather than someone telling you, ‘don't do this, don't do that', Mike just stops and listens," Phildjon says.
"He's an on-to-it fella because he's been there before. He was an alcoholic, a drug addict. He knows what things are really like."
They've only been meeting for a few weeks but Phildjon says the conversations are already shifting his life in a new direction.
"It's helping me a lot. I see the change that's coming to me. Even my Mum and Dad can see the change in me."
Phildjon is one of many at-risk youth that Mr King mentors on an ongoing basis.
The sessions sprang from the "It's Cool to Korero" talks he's delivered to thousands of young people around the country.
The talks are funded by his own charity, the Key To Life Trust, and aim to empower youth to survive the dark times and live lives they're proud of.
Mr King shares his own struggles with depression and addiction and the tools he used to get through them. Most importantly, he says, he always leaves his phone number.
The Mangere Bridge resident mentors countless people. Most are teens but the oldest is about 50, he says.
Some he speaks to once a month and others require a phone call every hour to check in.
Many are "at the sharp end" and have experienced things that most New Zealanders can't imagine.
The key for Mr King is focusing on the positive and highlighting the strengths of the young people he works with.
"These kids are constantly battling. Their self-esteem is just smashed and they spend a lot of time fronting."
The other important aspect of the sessions is listening more than he speaks.
"All my life I've had people telling me what to do. I don't have any answers, I've just got two ears.
"Our kids are amazing. If you go in with a different attitude, you'll come out with a different result.
"So many people see these kids as a problem but I look at them and see the solution."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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