A few weeks ago I attended a breakfast break-up for the Futures Programme at Wainuiomata High School. This programme is run by a retired teacher, Bill Sharp (Sharpie), to encourage boys who might otherwise fall through the cracks in the education system. They get together twice a week at 6am, summer and winter. Before school they do PE and drills, school work, and have a shared breakfast.
What impressed me about this group was the fact that some of the boys (Years 9–13) had only learned to read this year. They got up in front of the group and talked about a book they had read recently, then explained the meaning of a particular word they had learned. “Determination” and “commitment” were among the words mentioned by the boys.
To me these boys are heroes. They realised there was an area they were struggling with, but they didn’t run from that, or blame anyone else for their level of ability. They confronted the situation, and then did something about it. What they have done is truly impressive.
The Futures Programme shows us that positive change is possible, no matter what the obstacles, if we turn our minds to finding practical solutions, then work together to achieve them.
Sharpie and the boys would not regard themselves as extraordinary, yet letting go of ego and helping each other out without thought of reward other than the satisfaction of achieving a goal – in this case, being able to read – is a powerful combination.
The hero’s path tends to be one that requires persistence, and even bravery at times to overcome setbacks and disappointments. The benefits, however, are felt by individuals, their families, and also by the whole community.
Victor Hugo said, “To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” Who knows what this simple, courageous act will mean for the future of these young men?