Fun’s the key to motivating our local teens, insists long-time youth leader

Kroon’s been a leading light in getting Raglan’s young people, in a  sense, off the streets.

And more than just a few of them: on a typical Friday night she’s one of a team of youth leaders who are picking up three full vanloads – plus an extra couple of car-loads – of 13 to 18 year olds from outside the local library.

Not that Raglan’s got a big youth problem – and Sasha, her husband Marty and seven others from Surfside Youth are committed to helping ensure it never does.

Their modus operandi is to lay on for the teens a whole lot of fun for one night a week during term time. That means anything from activities at the beach and  barbecues to playing indoor and outdoor sports and, historically, hanging together at the Pearts’ property on Okete Rd.

Sasha’s family have lived and farmed in the area now for more than 100 years.

“I started out at 15,” Sasha told the Chronicle of her involvement with the youth team.

She’s amazed at how the  years have passed but the now 31 year old mother of three says she loves the work. “It’s totally worthwhile, I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”

She and Marty now see around town the children of that earlier teen generation they started out with.  “It makes us feel very old,” Sasha laughs.

The couple insist however they’re no heroes, and deflect any praise on to the “incredible” team of volunteers they’re a part of. All give up their time, use their own petrol and resources and generally muck in to make Friday nights in particular happen.

The aim? “To make a difference in the lives of the rangitahi in our community,” says Sasha.

That means believing in our young people, she says, encouraging and challenging them to be their best.

Sasha and Marty are driven by their Christian values. Recently – with a noticeable increase of teens at church – they changed tack to include in the Friday programme a mix of Youth life groups, encounter nights and event nights to continue connecting with the majority of teenagers while also developing the “spiritually keener” youth.

“We felt the need to have something a little deeper,” explains Sasha who also runs a junior youth programme once a month on the usual Friday night, plus a weekly session during church on Sunday mornings.

Junior Youth caters for the intermediate rather than the high school-aged kids, she says. “They are the future leaders of our church and community.”

Some of the Surfside Youth crew last Friday night at the Okete farm.
Some of the Surfside Youth crew last Friday night at the Okete farm.

Then there’s Mainly Music during the week. “I help out,” Sasha adds, “whether that’s welcoming and signing Mums and kids into the programme, or doing the music and visuals or leading the programme.”

Meantime Marty oversees the kids’ programme at church as well as running a ‘Thunderbolts’ programme for school-aged children, years 3-6. He’s a fulltime high school music teacher whereas Sasha splits her time 50/50 between Youth and home – their own children now aged from three to seven.

Currently the couple also lead the Surfside Church service on Sundays while Sasha’s parents, Pastors Roger and Cheryll Peart, are overseas.

Sasha says she is now employed for 15 hours of church work but that she’d continue volunteering regardless of the bonus. “I am passionate about the youth of Raglan … I do it for the love of our awesome community.”

Edith Symes