The story of initialize nz

Shyla Kelly (bottom left), founder of Initialize NZ, with her three sisters at Long Bay Beach. Find out more about Shyla    here   .

Shyla Kelly (bottom left), founder of Initialize NZ, with her three sisters at Long Bay Beach. Find out more about Shyla here.

NOTE: Add this to Your Teacher page: Find out more about how Initialize was inspired here.

inspired by the stories of young new zealanders

Through my work as Youthline counsellor and group facilitator, and working with the University of Auckland’s Susanna Trnka on her research into digital technology and youth mental health and wellbeing, I have been both saddened and inspired by the experiences that people have shared about the challenges that they have faced as young people.

challenges young people face

These challenges include huge stigma around revealing mental health issues and seeking support, and a pressure to appear in control and happy all the time. Time and time again I have been inspired and brought to tears of awe by the level of resilience, compassion, and altruism that young people are capable of in a society that lacks adequate mental health care and often passes heavy judgement on people struggling with issues that impact their mental and emotional health.

I am constantly humbled by the level of resilience, compassion, and altruism that young people are capable of in a society that often forgets how much young people have to offer, and how relevant and inspiring their ideas are.


fostering youth agency

I wanted to create a programme that honours young people’s ideas and agency and offers them tools to help to challenge and deconstruct the intergenerational cycles of violence towards ourselves and others that are so prevalent in New Zealand. Equipping young people with the resources and skills to launch into the world full of self confidence, self awareness, empathy for oneself and others, awareness of diverse life experiences, and interpersonal communication skills is the driving force behind Initialize NZ.

more than just drama

In my previous work as a drama teacher working for a well-known drama company, I kept noticing that it seemed like many parents were sending their children to drama classes for reasons other than drama and acting experience. Parents told me that they were hoping the drama classes would provide their children with skills such as self confidence and better interpersonal communication. I saw the young people themselves coming to drama classes to connect socially, to have fun, and most importantly, to be acknowledged for what they have to offer as humans with a myriad of thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and emotional responses. The idea of a drama-based youth development and leadership course, where “we don’t teach drama — drama teaches us”, began to germinate.

fusing self-growth with drama

My training with the Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand Psychodrama Association and many years spent running groups such as Youthline’s Personal Development and Action Education’s Drama Toolkit programmes inspired me to think about how I could create a drama-based programme that uses drama as a vessel for personal growth and interpersonal skill development, rather than personal development just being a happy side effect of drama classes.

the idea was born: not your average drama class

Thus the idea for Initialize was born - a drama-based youth development programme that offers a platform where young people can explore concepts such as boundaries, self care and recognising emotional responses in a space that feels safe, playful and inspiring.

Find out more about our vision and affiliation with Youthline here or apply now to take part in our free six-week pilot programme starting in February 2019.