Back to the Future Leaders

Future Leaders is an initiative of our partner charity Inspiring Stories, with a vision to see every New Zealander unleash their potential to change the world. The Future Leaders programme started with a simple question: how might we make a bigger difference for young people in rural and provincial New Zealand?

The programme started in 2016 with only 16 participants and in two years, has grown to over 200 participants across eight rural communities throughout New Zealand. All participants are invited to attend Festival for the Future in Wellington with flights, accommodation and tickets provided. We talked to three of this year’s Future Leaders about where they’re from, what makes them tick and how the programme has changed their life.

Jennifer Wordsworth: Whangarei

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Born and bred in Whangarei, I was a prefect leader on the Global Issues Committee at my high school in 2016. The Future Leaders programme drew me in because it looked like the ideal place to extend my leadership abilities beyond high school and act as a platform to make a difference in my community.

I care a great deal about learning and seeing young people reach their potential. Through Future Leaders, I have gained awareness and empathy on the issue of mental wellbeing. I’m particularly interested in communication skills in our youth culture. I believe there’s a serious lack of spaces and services designed specifically for youth. I have spent a lot of time looking into possible solutions around mental wellbeing and connecting youth with services and activities that can help them.

The Future Leaders programme has really helped me shape a more informed and holistic view of my community and explore better ways for change and improvement. I’ve been so lucky to be exposed to many new worldviews as well as the different motivations and expectations that people bring with their personalities. It has also given me a platform of recognition with which to approach other community providers such as the Whangarei District Council. Having significant contacts is incredibly helpful when working in a professional capacity for the first time.

Philadelphia Mete-King: Kapiti

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I grew up in Ōtaki on the Kapiti Coast. Ōtaki has such a sense of whānau and community; It feels more like a person than a town. Our river runs through it giving us life. Our Future Leaders project has grown and changed in the past couple of months but its major idea has stayed strong. We are making a short film that addresses mental health through a Māori perspective, looking at Māori gods such as Rangi and Papa, Tangaroa and Tumatauenga.

The Future Leaders programme has allowed me to connect young people to mental health solutions through Te Au Māori, and to connect rangatahi from different Rohe across New Zealand. Meeting other rangatahi who are just as passionate about their own kaupapa as I am, has shown me that there are people in their own communities that are so strong.

In my spare time, I love making connections with new people and building stronger ones with those I already know. I enjoy doing this mostly through filmmaking and creating short films for the people I love and care for. When I’m not studying, that is usually where you will find me; behind my camera or editing on my laptop.

Talei Bryant: Whakatāne

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I was born in Nelson and bred in Waimana. I feel so lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful environment. My love for my community and Aotearoa comes from being exposed to all this natural beauty and having such a strong supportive family.

I am currently working on building a charitable trust called Find Your Fish. Over the next few months, my goal is to successfully inform the Eastern Bay of Plenty about Find your Fish and set up free workshops and programmes around the community. We are currently working on securing an office and youth space in Whakatāne where our members can plan workshops and events, talk about ideas and have a safe environment to relax in. We want to set up Find Your Fish bases around the country and eventually become a nationwide youth-led support group who are making a change and having fun at the same time. My number one goal is to set up and run a summer camp over the holidays in Waimama for our rangatahi. We want to start by teaching our babies about creating a more sustainable future.

The Future Leaders programme has changed my life in the best way possible. It has changed my mindset and that is thanks to listening to inspirational speakers such as Aroha Lawrence and Meihana Durie. I truly believe the programme will change the future of New Zealand for the better.


Article edited by Telford Mills.

Inspiring Stories run programmes year-round to empower young Kiwis with ideas for a better world to get out there and make it happen. If you're not already a supporter of their work but would like to help them back more future leaders, show them some love with 1% of your income!