As the next round of Prime Minister's Youth Programme candidates start their course today, Nathaniel Hansell talks to Kate Chapman.
Nathaniel Hansell, 17, is a confident young man.
Confident that had he not changed his ways he'd be a high school drop-out looking ahead to life on the benefit.
Confident that he's made the right choice turning his back on a few "fake friends", and confident that he can make it as a footy star.
Successive governments have come up programmes and plans to combat youth offending and to keep teenagers on the straight and narrow.
For generations parents have been worrying about how to stop their offspring going off the rails.
West Auckland student Nathaniel Hansell is proof it can be done. He has managed to turn his life around after heading down the wrong track.
He is grateful to the mentors who helped him and this week he is returning to the Prime Minister's Youth Programme to help other teenagers like him.
Hansell was a participant last year in the week-long programme aimed at youth and said it was a great experience.
The Kelston Boys High student was close to dropping out of school a couple of years ago after he began "doing bad things with bad people".
He has no illusions about the path he was on.
"I probably wouldn't be in school right now ... and wouldn't have any goals in league, and just wouldn't have any drive in life," he says.
"I'd probably be living off a benefit."
His focus has changed remarkably. He is finishing school and playing for an under-20 rugby league club team.
He plans to either study social work or play for a Australian National Rugby League team next year.
It was having genuine friends that made Hansell realise the people he was spending time with were "fake friends".
He also saw family members becoming parents young and following a path he did not want to tread.
"It just real showed me what was real in my life and what wasn't," he says.
"I felt worthy of something. [The mentors] just put something on me that told me that I could so something with my life."
His Mum has noticed a difference too: "She stopped growling me off."
Hansell said there was no going back to his old life.
"I'm just like a happier person in general," he says.
His mentor at the Village Community Services Trust, Arthur Mui, said Hansell was an evident leader and everyone wanted to be his friend.
"He knows when it's time to laugh and when it's time to work," Mui says.
"He's got a good head screwed on him and he's doing really well at school."
The next round of Prime Minister's Youth Programme candidates will attend the course in Auckland and Wellington from today.
Gone Fishin producer Graeme Sinclair and fashion designer Trelise Cooper will speak to the teens who will also visit Parliament and spend time at the Devonport Naval Base.
The programme is for young people aged 14-17 who have overcome adversity and turned their lives around.
- The Dominion Post
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