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Community Heroes: Mel Brydon

Community Heroes is an occasional column featuring volunteers in our community. Sponsored by West Coast Health Clinic.

This week we spoke to Mel Brydon, a volunteer that contributes a lot of time to support our community whether it’s through her role as a Raglan Area School Board of Trustees Board Member or through her involvement with local sports.

You are the former Chairperson of RAS BOT. How long have you been on the board? Why did you decide to get involved and dedicate time to this?

This is currently my fifth year as a board trustee and I was board Chairperson for three.  I will have completed six years of service at the time of the 2019 trustee elections. The Chairperson has a very engaging role and set of responsibilities within the board structure and is a position that’s ratified at the beginning of every year.  I chose not to stand for re-election this year as I felt that it was time to take a step back to refresh and re-energise.  In saying that, it’s important for boards to consider succession planning and provide opportunities for other trustees to fulfil leadership roles and embrace varied leadership styles.

I decided to get involved because I wanted to understand how a school operates and how I could contribute.  Our children’s education is an investment and by being fully engaged, working alongside school management, our teaching staff, our support staff, our community and most importantly our student body – our school and our students can only benefit positively from that.

Who is a BOT position most suited to? What would you say to someone considering it in the future?

Board of Trustees are essentially tasked with governance and strategic direction.  It gives us as parents and community members the means to contribute and participate in the strategic direction of our school.  The board is charged with a significant amount of legislative, policy, charter and strategic direction, property and asset management, and financial management as well as student achievement reporting, review and monitoring.

I would consider the BOT position to be suited to community members with a skill set that can positively contribute to the work of the board.  Raglan Area School Trustees have a really wide and diverse range of professional skills that we can offer as part of our trusteeship, plus we also undertake a range of professional development during our term.  I think the same can be said for Te Uku, Te Mata and Waitetuna Schools as well – they have some very skilled, knowledgeable and experienced Trustees.

If anyone is considering trustee elections I would suggest they become involved with their local school.  Board Meetings are held in public, so community members are able to attend.  Trustees are prevalent within our community – so talk to us about our role and aspirations for our children and their education.

You are obviously someone who puts their hand up for responsibility and gets involved in community projects for youth. Tell us about your involvement with the swimming club.

The Raglan Swimming Club has a very dedicated and talented group of volunteers that work really hard behind the scenes on initiatives that benefit our community.  The work of the swimming club isn’t in isolation, although we all combine our strengths and our passions to make initiatives come to fruition – so a big shout out to the volunteers in the Swim Club.

My particular passion was in swimming lessons for our kids, and so I chose to work on developing a swim programme to cater for all levels of swimming ability – from preschool (during summer) right through to squad swimmers.  The Swim Club is a charitable organisation – so we made the lessons as affordable as we could and invested those funds into providing quality swim coaching and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the club.  There are also some very amazing and generous sponsors that support some of our swimmers.

Why was this initiative so important to you?

It was very important to me for all our kids to have every opportunity they can to learn to swim, to participate and enjoy with confidence many of the water-based activists we have – paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking, school swimming competitions etc.  I also wanted to break down and remove some of the challenges our families face – particularly having to travel to Hamilton weekly to access lessons and the cost of those lessons.  Also, a big shout out to Raglan Area School for the use of their pool.  It’s important our kids enjoy and feel safe and confident in the water – the swim club helps to achieve that.

Tell me about your involvement with RAS rugby. We hear you take your team away on great rugby camps.

I’m the manager of the school rugby team, my involvement started four years ago when we were looking for a sport that my son could participate in.  We saw an opportunity to become involved and the rest is history……..

At the end of each rugby season we go away on a ‘Rugby Camp Weekend’.  Mount Maunganui is a favourite venue for the team.  The only criteria for camp is to have as much fun and eat as much food as is humanly possible – we do things like adventure climbing at Adrenaline Forest, luge at Skyline, lots of swimming and hot pools.  Paintball is a MUST for every camp – so we find paintball in every town we pass through.  It’s a real team favourite where the boys get quite a bit of enjoyment from shooting at the coaches, parents and a teacher if they’re lucky.  Balls of steel are definitely required if you take a shot at the team manager, although you do risk not being fed later on …lol

It’s pretty common for me to buy 40 pizzas for lunch…… they’re demolished in minutes!!!!

The entire reason for rugby camp is to celebrate the journey of our boys.  Through rugby they experience, push through and overcome so many challenges – personal, physical and emotional.  They are extraordinary young men!!

What do you like about volunteering? What are some of the accomplishments you’re proud of?

I’m really proud to be part of the journey.  Rugby is very physical and very much a contact sport.  Many of our boys only started playing rugby at secondary school level, and over time you see their self-confidence and self-esteem develop and become stronger, you see a really strong sense of camaraderie and ‘brothership- develop.

The accomplishments I’m most proud of over the past four years have been seeing the boys wear the rugby strip with pride and play for our school and each other.  A few years ago we came third in our division – quite an accomplishment considering our opponents were some of the largest secondary schools in the country.  I’m also really proud to see how boys really bond together and step up when it’s been necessary – we’ve won games with only 13 or 14 players on the field and we’ve also won games with our boys playing the field for the entire 70 minutes, while our opponents had ample player subs to play.  I have seen so many WOW moments over the years and our boys and their families have so much to be proud of.

What would you say to others who have thought about coaching?

I would encourage every single person to volunteer in their local community whenever possible.  The relationships and friendships you develop along the way last a lifetime and the rewards are endless.

Is there time beyond career and volunteering for your personal interests? What is your day job?

There’s never enough time in the day!!!  I like to be busy so often I find that if I have some spare time I will usually fill it up by taking on another project.  My husband and I are self-employed. He’s been an owner/driver with Waste Management for 16 years and I’ve just joined him and expanded our contracts. My role in the business was administrative – so I managed the finances, budgets, projections, accounting and taxation – all skills I have been able to transfer to contribute to the work of the board. Prior to that, I worked at Raglan Kindergarten for over a decade – seriously the best job in the world!!!!

What are you really passionate about in our community?

I’m passionate about our young people.  I was a student at Raglan Area school and my family has been living in Raglan for over thirty years.  When I finished school, I moved away to Rotorua for a few years and then with my family decided to return home to Raglan.  I’m passionate about our kids.  I’m passionate about offering my time and knowledge to provide them with all the opportunities that were offered to us when we were kids.  We have amazing young people and teachers in our school and community and it’s a privilege getting to know them and being part of the fantastic relationship culture that exists here.

Our pool of community volunteers is small and my hope from this interview is to encourage our community members to contribute to increase our volunteer numbers – your kids and community will benefit immensely.