NPDC funding helps Zeal draw out the best in our rangatahi

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Will Chisnall has found her voice through art and the 13-year-old is now returning to school after about a year of home-schooling.


Will suffered severe panic attacks and had to come out of school, but she’s rediscovered her confidence through art classes at Zeal, a youth organisation supported by NPDC focussed on turning around the lives of young people who would otherwise fall through society’s cracks.


“I’ve been drawing since I was about five and at Zeal, I found the drawing helps me control my anxiety,” said Will, who has a love of anime-style art.

“At school there were too many people and there was too much happening, but now I can talk to people and I’m animated and this year I’ll be going back to school.”


Zeal art teacher Cynthia Núñez said many of the students are very shut off from the world when they first come to art groups.


“Slowly the hoodies come off and the earphones come off and they start talking and engaging with other people – it’s a gradual process, but it’s great to see,” said Cynthia.


Zeal entered a partnership with NPDC in 2018 to engage with rangatahi (youth) across the district and ensure their voice is heard through workshops, activities and alternative education and creative programmes. 


“We all benefit when our young people feel part of our community and Zeal helps give them a voice in building a Sustainable Lifestyle Capital,” said NPDC Community and Economic Development Manager Damien Clark.


“Zeal has done awesome work to help us understand young people’s views on projects like our Emissions Reduction Plan and the City Centre Strategy. This partnership also encourages young people to take part in elections and draft our district plan.


Since setting up in New Plymouth five years ago with $100,000 a year in NPDC funding, Zeal has helped hundreds of local rangatahi find their place in the world.


Last year Kanye Taipari became the first Under-16 alternative education student in North Taranaki in 18 years to get his NCEA Level 1.


This year Zeal has provided:

  • 38 programmes on subjects including barista training, sound and lighting, photography, event management, and singing/songwriting for about 400 young people.
  • Four work-readiness programmes over 20 weeks for 40 young people.
  • Alternative Education for 12 young people to gain literacy, numeracy, and other skills.
  • Support for more than 50 rangatahi in finding jobs.

Caption: Will Chisnall, left with Zeal art teacher Cynthia Núñez.