Nehe Milner-Skudder, project supporter; Nic Scotland, Education Tutor; Lawrence Ereatara, Residential Manager; Ashley Shearar, Principal Adviser Youth Strategy; Hemi Heperi, Corrections Officer, and Colette Mintoft, YES Tutor. An anti-bullying project has won a group of young prisoners from Hawkes Bay Regional Prison a national award, along with a host of accolades.

The group, who participated in the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) project as Letz Lead, won the National Excellence Resilience award at the National YES Awards in Wellington on Thursday evening.

The award, sponsored by the Ministry of Youth Development, is given to a company who has successfully completed the YES programme in the face of barriers, difficulties and hardships not faced by the average company.  They have also excelled in the academic tasks and successfully developed a product.

Speaking on behalf of the youth at the ceremony, Hawkes Bay Regional Prison Education Tutor Nic Scotland said, “Letz Lead is so proud of what they have achieved and how they have been able to give back to the community.  We are incredibly proud of them and their national achievement.”

A tika tonu (Māori haka) was performed at the ceremony by senior managers Lawrence Ereatara and Hemi Heperi who work with the youth, and project supporter Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Residential Manager Lawrence Ereatara says, “The rangatahi started this as a YES project, but it became much more than that”.

“Bullying has a harmful effect on young people. These young men have shown great strength of character in wanting to do something about it.”

“They used their experiences of being bullied and being the bully to create meaningful messages of support for youth and school children in the community.”

For their YES project the team wrote and illustrated a booklet (“Can You Relate?”) with anti-bullying messages and supported it with a rap.

The booklet and rap uses kaupapa values and whakatauki to start conversations around feelings and emotions.

They also made yellow bracelets which have become a symbol of anti-bullying.

Hawke’s Bay Seniors rugby team the Magpies visited the young men and wore yellow bracelets in a recent match; other high profile rugby players have also sported yellow bracelets following a visit.

In prison they were supported by their Education Tutor Nic Scotland and by their YES tutor Colette Mintoff and Karla Lee, Hawke's Bay YES Regional Coordinator from Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Nic Scotland says, “They have a social conscience and decided their YES project would be about something that would benefit youth in their communities. They said ‘smiles are our profits’ because they weren’t concerned about making money from the project, they just wanted to help others.”

Letz Lead is already helping others: the Ministry of Education features their work as a resource for teachers and students on the Bullying Free NZ website.  Profits from the sale of their booklet and rap go to Youthline and Kids Can.

Letz Lead also won the Resilience Award at the regional YES awards in Napier recently.

The youth will receive a 24 credit Young Enterprise Scheme micro-credential and 10 level 3 Business Studies credits for their years’ work. They also receive the $1,000 that comes with a National Excellence Award, which will enable them to continue with their anti-bullying campaign.