Sharing learning from both sides of the wire

Issue: Volume 96, Number 12

Posted: 10 July 2017
Reference #: 1H9dVC

A cutting-edge idea is bringing two groups of Hawke’s Bay students together in the name of business.

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.

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. 

When St John’s College teacher David Ivory first approached prison staff about the potential joint learning project it was warmly welcomed, says Tony.

A student works on a prototype bread board.

“It’s been a partnership we’ve embraced from the beginning. David really opened our eyes to it as an opportunity for our young people, and we were certainly keen to be involved,” he says.

Creating as ‘normal’ an environment as possible is one of the aims of the prison’s education programmes, and the enterprise project certainly establishes good working routines between the two student groups.

“The boys are doing the design and making of the boards – they’re quite finely handcrafted. And obviously that increases confidence and further learning opportunities. But there’s a bigger gain too, of course, which is the opportunity to work collaboratively and constructively with their peers. Over and above that, this opportunity gives them some of the tools, skills and knowledge that will assist them on release.

“They’re learning some valuable entrepreneurial skills in there. If we can equip them with those tools on release, we have the chance to prevent them coming back to prison. They’re gaining a lot from it. It’s been great to watch the personal growth and relationships between the two groups of students – it’s interesting just watching that unfold.” 

Student voices

This partnership has provided us all with a unique opportunity. To work on a joint business project with youth just like me, who have made some mistakes, I feel so privileged. We work together on joint decision-making, solving problems, production, marketing – a simple product, yes, but a fine one – made of rimu, designed to reflect our partnership, each unique with a Māori carving – a rich learning. This ongoing experience has enhanced my learnings of entrepreneurship and engagement in a very unique setting. 

Jake Dunn (Year 13) Joint CEO

I was a little scared on our first visit, leaving my phone in the school van and bringing photographic identification – two of the prison protocols, taking my shoes and belt off going through the metal detector – nothing prepares you for that experience. We first experienced a pōwhiri – I was blown away about how they prepared it for us – it was a little emotional. I found that I felt safe and we soon collectively got on with the agenda and tasks at hand – we could have been at school. The difference was at the end of the day we left, although returning, our brothers in prison stayed behind.

Rhyva van Onselen (Year 11).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 6:00 am, 10 July 2017

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