The list of awards at Ōtaki College’s prize-giving night in November was impressive – it included plenty of academic and sports achievers who were worthy recipients.
It wasn’t a list that Jayda Maihi thought she would ever be on. But there it was. Jayda Maihi, recipient of the Civil Trim Plant Hire Scholarship that gave the spirited 17-year-old what she describes as the “opportunity of a lifetime”. She gets to go to Outward Bound, which helps especially young people reach their potential through outdoor experiences.
Jayda is the sort of young woman that one can see returning to the college in 10 years time, giving an inspirational speech to students about how there is always hope for a bright future. She is living proof already.
For most of her life, Jayda has been raised by her grandparents. But then, at the age of 14, her grandmother died and she went to live with her own parents. Having been raised by someone else since birth, it wasn’t an easy transition for Jayda, or her parents. Home life was difficult.
She went to live with whānau in Australia for a couple of years, but that didn’t work out either. Back home with her parents, she got into what she recognises were some bad behaviours and made some bad choices. She took up with the wrong friends and life began spiralling out of control. She didn’t smile much.
She began to accept that this was what life would be for her. But she also knew deep down that it didn’t need to be like this.
She sought help. At first it was a tearful meeting with teacher aide Lee Bain.
“I came to school in tears,” Jayda says. “I was really over my life. I didn’t know what to do. Lee pretty much saved me.”
Lee offered to have Jayda stay with her and husband Steve for a while – to catch up with homework that wasn’t being done, and have some time away from home to work out what she wanted to do. Jayda took up the offer. She opened up to Lee in the first couple of weeks, started going to the gym and got a casual job gardening. Her grades at school rapidly improved.
She began to smile – even more so now she’s heading for Outward Bound.
“I want to make the most of that opportunity,” she says confidently.
Lee is full of praise for Jayda’s determination.
“She is one of the few people who has the insight to know that she needs to make a change,” Lee says. “She recognised that she didn’t want to be like this. It was hard for her to know how to get out of the situation, but she looked for help and she got it, from a lot of people.”
Steve Forsyth of Ōtaki company Civil Trim Plant Hire approached college principal Andy Fraser earlier this year with the scholarship proposition.
“I like to help families and young people where I can,” he says. “I wanted to pay for someone to go to Outward Bound, but I told Andy it shouldn’t be for a top student or sports star. I wanted it to be for someone who’d never get this opportunity. And someone who might have been through a tough time – that was important to me – and just needed a bit of a hand to get them back on track.”
He left it to Andy to nominate someone, and is pleased with the choice.
“I hear she’s a good kid and that she’ll do well. I’d love to keep in touch and see how she’s going.”
Ōtaki College principal Andy Fraser says he’s thrilled that Jayda has the opportunity to attend Outward Bound.
“I have nothing but admiration for a young woman who has set her sights on her dreams and gone for it,” he says. “When she has required a hand up she has been brave enough to ask for support. This has helped her journey but at the end of the day it has been her gutsy determination that has been the driving force behind her success.”
Jayda has appreciated how the college has supported her through her dark times. And she hopes other students can be brave enough to make a change.
Steve has also been a pivotal part of breaking the chain.
“Getting this scholarship has made my life much better,” she says. “I know there’s so much more to life. I want to travel. I want to do so much. I want to be a carpenter.”
Jayda still has another year at college and the signs are promising.
“I think I’m going to do really good.”