New mobile workshop for boys

ICONZ boys with some of their projects.

A Tauranga mentoring programme which helps young boys develop self-belief, resilience, and a better attitude towards life and learning is set to expand in the Bay of Plenty thanks to a $15,000 grant from BayTrust.

ICONZ was developed by Tauranga man Stu Thompson on behalf of the New Zealand Boys Brigade organisation in 2003. It’s now run in 65 different locations nationwide, and a modified version called ICONZ Edge has been running at Welcome Bay Primary School since 2010.

Stu plans to expand ICONZ Edge to Bellevue School, Arataki School, St Thomas More Catholic School, and Merivale School by mid-2018 by purchasing a fully enclosed ‘workshop’ trailer which will act as a mobile classroom for students.

“We can tow it from school to school and it will help us overcome wet weather or any issues around lack of classroom space. It will be 5.5m long and 2.4m wide – about the size of a shipping container. The initial plan for the expansion is to have one programme per term, then increase the frequency as funding allows us to employ a Workshop Manager.”

BayTrust has granted $15,000 towards the $34,000 project which Stu is most grateful for. “We were blown away. We’re so delighted to have BayTrust’s support and can’t wait to get our new ‘workshop’ on the road. It’s just outstanding.”

Young boys are hand-picked by their school to participate in ICONZ Edge, which involves a two-hour session each week for one year. ICONZ Edge work in partnership with their schools to improve educational outcomes for boys, providing greater exposure to the outdoors, life experiences, and life skills.

“Schools are grappling with a lot of social issues which is distracting teachers from their core jobs. ICONZ Edge is stepping into the gap and teaching kids important life lessons – all of which are linked back to the key competencies in the National Curriculum,” says Stu.

Weekly activities include learning how to fillet a fish, build small boats, or ride a bike. Part of every session is also devoted to ‘edge skills’ like bullying, self-management and resilience, conflict resolution, team building, and how to relate to others.

“There are over 40,000 boys in New Zealand who don’t have a dad in their lives. ICONZ is about providing positive male role models to give these boys confidence and a positive environment in which to learn. My goal is to get ICONZ Edge into as many schools in Tauranga as possible to help serve their needs.”

BayTrust CEO Alastair Rhodes says ICONZ was a great example of a successful youth programme encouraging young boys to be productive members of the community.

“BayTrust believes that when youth are involved and engaged within their community they are more likely to lead productive lives and become good citizens that will provide leadership for our communities in the future.”

Alasdair says Stu and his ICONZ team are making a big difference in the lives of the boys involved at Welcome Bay Primary School.

“We want to see that positive influence spread to other schools in our region. We hope this contribution to their new workshop trailer will allow that expansion to take place as quickly as possible.”