On Auckland’s North Shore, the Raise Up crew for 2014 consisted of 32 young people from a range of backgrounds and, according to Karen Jack, Raise Up Coordinator for YMCA North Shore, a highlight is always getting to know the young people involved. “I love the stuff that brings us together and enables us to really get to know such good kids. The events themselves are always great, but I also get a real kick out of seeing them work together to actually plan what they want to do. Their energy and enthusiasm is awesome!” 

One such energetic and enthusiastic Raise Up North Shore crew member, is 17 year old Victoria Cotter. She didn’t start out that way however. “Before I started with Raise Up, I was pretty shy,” says Victoria. I seemed outwardly confident, but I got really anxious inside. Sometimes I couldn’t even go up and ask for something in a shop!”

Victoria credits Raise Up with helping her to come out of her shell and expand her horizons. “It’s awesome how much I’ve grown over my year with Raise Up and I’m thankful for the overwhelming support. I got to meet such awesome people who all want more out of life and want a chance to give back; there is a reason they’re in Raise Up!” explains Victoria.

Victoria was a late starter in the Raise Up programme, entering the crew in March 2014, while in her final year of high school. “There was a recruitment drive at my school, so I applied and had an interview with Karen,” Victoria says. “I was pretty excited when I got in, as there were lots of applicants. I wasn’t sure I would get a shot!”

Finishing her time at Carmel College at the end of 2014 coincided with Victoria’s graduation from the Raise Up programme, however she insists that she will still be “gatecrashing a couple of meetings.” In fact, the Raise Up programme, and YMCA Auckland as an organisation had such an impact on Victoria that she’s finding a way to stick around! “I’m actually going to work for YMCA now. I got a job helping with the holiday programme, so they haven’t seen the last of me yet!” laughs Victoria.

When asked about her highlights from her year in the programme, she says “the overall experience has been pretty cool, but one of my highlight was presenting at Walk The Line at New Zealand Fashion Week. I will remember that forever.” Held during New Zealand Fashion Week’s open-to-the-public ‘Fashion Weekend’, Walk the Line is an innovative platform where young designers are able to put their creations on a world stage. The largest scale initiative of its kind, Walk The Line is open to secondary school students nationwide, and echoing the ethos of Raise Up is run entirely for youth by youth.

That, and so much more, is in store for the new Raise Up crew members that fill Victoria’s shoes this year. In the meantime though, we’re thrilled to still have Victoria’s friendly face and super smile around the YMCA North Shore Recreation Centre for a while to come!