St Paul’s Collegiate School student Serena Lim-Strutt (Year 13) was presented with a New Zealand Youth Week ‘giving back’ award by Hon Nikki Kaye, Minister for Youth, at Parliament House in Wellington on Tuesday 24 May.
Serena won the award for setting up the ‘over the fence ministry’ initiative at St Paul’s, which involves students giving up their spare time to help local low decile primary schools where needed. This includes coaching sport, helping with reading or simply eating lunch with the students.
After hearing about the proposed initiative from St Paul’s Reverend James Stephenson, Serena met with head teachers from local primary schools to find out what St Paul’s students could do to help. She then had the difficult task of motivating her fellow students to get involved so she created a short video about the project which she presented at a St Paul’s chapel service.
Rev Stephenson said her presentation had an overwhelming response with more than 300 students putting their name forward to volunteer.
“We were anticipating maybe 30 or 40 volunteers. She got a great response because the students really believed in what she was saying which was ‘this is going to make me a happier individual if I sign up for this’,” Rev Stephenson said.
“She showed serious grit and determination to get the initiative from an idea on paper to a fully functional programme.”
The idea was born after St Paul’s Headmaster Grant Lander expressed his want for a more meaningful service programme.
Rev Stephenson then proposed his rationale and philosophy of changing the service programme from a transactional style of service – where students donate money – to a transformational style of service that creates relationships and builds character.
The initial ‘over the fence’ service programme, helping local primary schools, is only the beginning. Moving forward, Rev Stephenson will introduce another two layers to the over the fence ministry initiative. The second tier will require Year 11 students to contact Hamilton charities and dedicate a week or two as a volunteer. The third being a programme for students who wish to volunteer abroad.