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Jul 11, 2017

Sharing learning from both sides of the wire

A unique enterprise is bringing students from two very different schools together. Five youth prisoners at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison are working with boys from St John’s College, Hastings, to complete Level 4 qualifications, and in doing so, have established a company.

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Head of Commerce at St John’s College, David Ivory, generated the spark when he encouraged his business students to think big with their Young Enterprise project.

“Five students from years 11–13 were enrolled in the national Young Enterprise competition, and their goal was to engage with other young people who were living a different life journey,” he explains.

“Youth at Hawke’s Bay Prison seemed a logical choice but there was a wariness as many obstacles would need to be overcome.

“We made an initial approach to the Young Offender’s Unit there and found not only a willingness to engage but a proactive approach by management at the prison who were so passionate about improving outcomes and providing quality opportunities for their youth.

“I believe that both the prison and school have benefited equally from this project,” he says.

What resulted from the partnership is a company called BRUTHAS, through which the students work together to design, test, craft, market and sell ‘Just Boards’ – handcrafted bread boards.

Although more expensive than those available from homeware chain stores, the students are focusing on the material, design, and quality in their marketing plan, as well as the unique partnership story that accompanies them.

All students involved meet together for lessons, with some further instruction work done via email in pursuit of credits for the Level 4 New Zealand Institute of Management paper 836.

Due to the physical barriers of prison and diverse life experiences of students, the project is not a simple one. But genuine progress is being made, says David.

“Through a shared leadership model, with students undertaking agreed tasks within their scope of expertise, problems are being worked through.”

David is excited about the learning opportunities presented by such a programme of work, which include strong numeracy and literacy elements, community engagement, and networking.

“Students are meeting together on a regular basis and have formed a commercial entity – they’re developing a wide range of other skills such as resilience, communication and creative thinking.”

Another exciting element is the involvement of Icebreaker CEO Rob Fyfe, who David says has been incredibly supportive of the initiative since the students approached him.

“They didn’t want capital, just his time as a mentor to bounce ideas off. He was immediately engaged and his management team are now providing innovative advice on marketing, sales and packaging.

“This generosity of spirit offer to students is amazing and is real time affirmation of this unique partnership,” says David.

St John’s College principal Paul Melloy is very proud of the joint project.

“I think the whole concept is outstanding – we’re very proud that the two groups of students can work together like this on an equal basis,” he says.

“A project like this ticks all our boxes – we’re fortunate that we’re able to do something like this, and the students involved are really excited and proud too.”

Embracing a partnership

Principal advisor rehab and learning at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison Tony Denton oversees a team of educators, coordinators, librarians and services that provide learning opportunities for prisoners on site.

The prison offers targeted rehabilitation and education programmes for youth. 


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