Youth work honoured

16:00, Jan 08 2014
Steve Boxer
DEDICATED: Steve Boxer has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work to curb youth reoffending.

If Steve Boxer does his job right he'll eventually find himself with no job to do, he says.

But he wouldn't have it any other way.

As the managing director of Mentoring Youth New Directions - MYND - he works with some of New Zealand's youngest criminals to stop them reoffending.

Now his efforts have been recognised by the Queen in the 2014 New Year Honours List.

He's been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to youth.

Mr Boxer, who lives in The Gardens, says he was "a little bit taken aback" when he got the notification in the mail.


"It was a bit of shock, a bit of disbelief," he says. "It ended up coming through the day before Christmas so it was a pretty nice Christmas present to open that letter."

It isn't the first time Mr Boxer has been recognised for turning young offenders' lives around.

In 2011 he was one of three finalists in the New Zealander of the Year awards.

He has been involved with community-based programmes for youth since 1996 and founded MYND in 2001.

It became part of the Foundation for Youth Development's stable in 2008.

The Manukau-based programme works with more than 100 young men, aged 14 to 17, every year.

They're classified as the worst 20 per cent of youth offenders and many have committed crimes as serious as aggravated burglary, car theft or grievous bodily harm.

Resilience and a thick skin are needed to do the job but it's the "little wins" that make it all worthwhile, Mr Boxer says.

"If we can turn a young person back into society - he doesn't have to be a rocket scientist but if he can get back into society and just get along - that's a win.

"We had this young guy recently - all the organisations out there had tried everything with him and failed. It took us two years of on-and-off intervention and almost 1000 hours of face-to-face contact to achieve a lifestyle change.

"Now he's working fulltime, he's living in a different environment with another family member, he's going to church, he's a youth leader. It's those things that you hold on to."

MYND has the highest success rate of any programme of its type in the country.

The most recent figures show a 72.4 per cent reduction in the severity and frequency of offending.

Nowadays Mr Boxer works closely with the Government to help the rest of the sector become as successful.

It's also about ensuring the programmes continue to work into the future. In the past many have "fallen over" when their founders moved on, he says.

"For me it's about how I can take a product that I've helped put together and make it a lot more sustainable.

"If I stopped tomorrow, the programme would carry on. It's now taken on its own life."

Caterer honoured: P3

Manukau Courier