Innovative Youth Project Forges Ahead

'Two floors of amazing' is how Shore Junction, the exciting project in the pipeline for Shore has been described. With plans signed off and development underway, this future-thinking project based in the former Takapuna RSA is set to be inspiring innovation and collaboration amongst young people in our region by the end of the year. For this issue, Heather Vermeer chatted to its Community Director Melanie Barr to find out what it's all about...

Shore Junction's Community Director Melanie Barr.

Shore Junction - please could you describe it in one sentence?

Shore Junction is a youth innovation hub in Takapuna designed to provide a safe space for young people to connect, belong, collaborate, learn and innovate, through a range of facilities, programmes and events that are designed to support their wellbeing and accelerate their potential.

Could you share the brief Shore Junction story so far...

Our CEO Sonia Thursby has spent the last 10 years envisioning an innovation centre for youth, it is with the successful tender of the old Takapuna RSA building that we can see her vision become reality.

The need for this project has been identified through consultation and engagement with young people. The concept and early development of Shore Junction has been driven by YOUnite, the Local Youth Board for Devonport-Takapuna. Young people from the North Shore community were involved in all consultations and have identified the needs of such a centre. 

Shore Junction has been designed and developed in direct response to these needs. It is also a strengths-based response to a common aspiration identified by the young people – the desire to contribute to change in their communities, for the environment and wider society, and for a space that facilitates this.

When is completion due? 

2018 will see us mostly in the midst of hard hats and steel caps. We hope to be open to the young people of the North Shore by November 2018, which means we can create some exciting summer activities and programmes to transition us into the 2019 school year. 

I will be giving monthly tours of Shore Junction while it is a construction site; tours will be a great way to keep the momentum going with the community. The Shore Junction community will encompass so many people, businesses, individuals, youth, parents, schools and government representatives that I want to ensure we are transparent with all stages of the build and development of the facilities. 

Which part of the project is most exciting you at present? 

Right now, I am like a child at Christmas; we have just received building consent so I cannot wait for the build to start. I am meeting fantastic youth and business contacts from the North Shore who want to get involved with the actual programmes and activities Shore Junction will offer. At the same time as being excited over the build, I also want the build to hurry up because I see so much potential in our offerings. 

Every stage excites me! I urge you, reader: Come have a tour with me and you’ll see for yourself! 

Who are the key Shore people that deserve a mention in relation to the project getting to the stage it has? 

So many people have given time, attention, expertise and financial support to get us to this point! Having just joined the Shore Junction team in late December I am spoilt to be surrounded by such talent and commitment. A huge number of young people have had significant input into the project using the co-design process: Joseph Bergin and Sian Simpson, both AIMES winners, Ian Lim, Chair of YOUnite, Mae Everett and Henry Pivac as our Youth Advisors - they all sit alongside members of the YES Board in a shared decision-making environment.

The North Harbour Club and YES Foundation Trust Board have been pivotal to enable the project to reach this point. The phenomenal support of individuals of the North Harbour Club who share our vision and passion for ongoing commitment to legacy has been encouraging and humbling. Our founding partners have believed in us since the very early stages including The North Harbour Club, Grow North, The Tindall foundation and Benefitz, to name but a few, who are determined to see the young people of North Shore have a place to call their own. 

And you, could you briefly share your own Shore story?

My Shore story saw me growing up in Browns Bay with my parents and older brother. My mum still lives in our family home and has been there over 40 years (my room has changed slightly). My school life was entirely Shore based; Sherwood Primary, then onto Northcross Intermediate and finishing up at Long Bay College. I was a drama kid, with a flair for comedy - I guess it was only natural that I have a career focused in stakeholder relations. While studying at university I worked at the Copper Room (now The Elephant Wrestler), and Just Kids retail stores in both Takapuna and Albany. Looking back, speaking to so many strangers as a bartender probably honed my networking skills as I moved into more corporate roles. 

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at a very young age, so throughout my late 20s I spent time volunteering with Radio Lollipop at the Starship Hospital. It was great to give back to a cause that I had connected with myself as a child. This year I am mentoring a business student to help her transition from business student to happy and prepared business person. 

After nine years working in events management and alumni relations, I love being back on the North Shore working at Shore Junction, it is home, and I am so excited that we are building such a strong community throughout the North Shore that engages with all ages and cultures. 

What does your role of Community Director at Shore Junction entail? 

As the Community Director I am the primary liaison between Shore Junction and community stakeholders. My initial focus is to get out into the community and connect with Shore Junction networks, both current and new. These networks are young people, businesses and key stakeholders of the North Shore. While Shore Junction is in the building phase this year, I will be working with youth to co-design comprehensive programmes, projects and events that provide youth with the resources they need to develop key skills, and connect them with business expertise.

My personal objectives are to ensure that Shore Junction creates a positive imprint on the community, and provides a safe environment for students to create, collaborate, innovate and learn. 

Which Shore young person currently inspires you most? 

You just need to look at the AIMES award winners and alumni network to know there is a talent pool on the Shore that is a force to be reckoned with. I am fortunate that in the coming months I will get to meet many of them, all of which already inspire me through what I’ve read and heard. 

Alexia Hilbertou stands out to me as a particular rock star in her field, at such a young age she has achieved so much. Did you know she has presented to over 20,000 people and she is only 18!? Henry Pivac who is the 2018 YOUnite Chair, and Shore Junction Youth Advisor scares me (in a good way) - he is at high school, and is a chair of the local youth board! I can’t wait to see where his path takes him and what he achieves. 

Why is Takapuna the ideal place for this centre to be established? 

Takapuna has so much going on, the whole North Shore does. We are spoilt by the number of engineering and tech companies based in Takapuna, the business expertise available on our front door, and the atmosphere of the community is always positive and upbeat. 

When working with our youth advisors, the young people identified accessibility as one of their top requirements when considering the location for the centre. Takapuna has such great public transport access, it is safe for young people to get to and from, and the environment is a humming buzz of constant development and opportunity. 

Are there any other similar projects to Shore Junction, in New Zealand or around the world, that you are aware of?

There are some great facilities throughout New Zealand with a focus on the STEAM subjects, many focus on an under 12 age group, teaching STEAM subjects to classes and after school programmes. Other facilities focus on university-aged students. This leaves a gap for the 13 – 20 age group who want to learn and innovate. 

There are a number of facilities similar to Shore Junction internationally, particularly in USA. The STEAM field is such a high growth field that we look forward to bringing this concept to New Zealand.

If you could have anyone at all along to officially open Shore Junction, who would it be & why?

Because Channel Magazine asked “anyone” I am going to dream a little dream with this one and say Sir Peter Blake. Born in Bayswater, attending school on the North Shore, and studying engineering at university, Sir Peter would have had everyone in red socks at the opening. I remember being 13 watching the 1995 America’s Cup and noticing for the first time how a whole country can band together and support a team of people on the other side of the world. I revelled in being part of that excitement, and I am sure many of our young people will trigger that sense of community and belonging like Sir Peter did. 

Please finish the sentence: By the end of 2018, I hope Shore Junction has…

Opened its doors to a flurry of Shore youth ready to open their minds to the exhilarating pathways ahead of them. 

By: Heather Vermeer
Issue 85 March 2018. Read the article at Channel Magazine online, click HERE.