An unlikely partnership between students from St John's College and youth prisoners at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison earned both organisations a string of accolades.
And last night was no different, as they received the Arts Access Corrections Whai Tikanga Award 2018 at Parliament - one of eight awards presented at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2018.
It all started last year when students from the Hastings school, participating in the Young Enterprise Scheme programme, developed a concept for a project to be undertaken in collaboration with underprivileged youth. Their product - Just Boards - wooden platters produced under the name Bruthas Ltd.
Together they created recycled rimu platters which interlock to symbolise a waka - underpinning Māori culture, and packaged in recycled coffee sacks. Profits from the sale of the platter boards ($1755) were donated to a local charity for disadvantaged youth, Leg-Up Trust.
Principal Paul Melloy said the most amazing thing about the group was that it broke down barriers; "fear of prisons, fear of people in prisons".
"They worked with these young men and most of them were 18-year-olds in the prison - very similar to their age and they realised they were very normal but have just made a huge error."
The team called Bruthas enjoyed success late last year when St Johns College student Jake Dunn won the Australia and New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants – CEO of the Year which was delivered in Wellington at a national ceremony attended by the elite of the New Zealand Business community and the Governor General.
"To see our young men fully engaged in a project that awards no credits or personal gains, other than acting out their values, supporting social justice in the community and wanting to make a difference."
Hawke's Bay Regional prison acting residential manager, special focus units, Lawrence Ereatara said it was an opportunity for their rangatahi (youth) to think big, and go after their aspirations and dreams.
"Some of our rangatahi have continued to develop their business skills with further courses such as our barista training programme in the prison," he said. "It's important we create opportunities for them to pursue positive pathways regardless of their background and current circumstances, and not limit their capabilities.
"We weave our kaupapa Māori values of Wairua, Whānau, Manaaki, Kaitiaki and Rangatira into our pathways and develop a cultural sense of identity with our rangatahi.
"The fact that these rangatahi from such diverse backgrounds, living both inside and outside the wire, could collaborate and develop a successful business model demonstrates that anything is possible."
Now students at the Catholic college are working with What Ever It Takes (WIT) - the region's largest peer provider of community-based mental health and addiction service.
Year 12 student Ben Gardiner said both experiences have been humbling.
"Your perspective of prisons definitely changes because when you get to meet them they are just like us, they have just had different upbringings and made a bad decision in their life."
Of the project, the judging panel said: "We loved this partnership project where two groups from diverse backgrounds — high school students and young prisoners—collaborated on a Young Enterprise Scheme project within a tikanga framework. Exploring the young prisoners' creative potential, they developed a successful business model and showed what's possible."
Hawke's Bay Regional Prison director George Massingham also received a highly commended Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award 2018, for his leadership in enabling tikanga-based arts and cultural programmes to flourish at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison.