Lehi Duncan is the Manager at Zeal Hamilton, a youth development facility (or youth centre) in the Hamilton CBD and has spent his 20s helping the lives of youth flourish in New Zealand. The not-for-profit organisation has a dedication to help young Kiwis. He is also representing Zeal on the Tomorrow’s Schools Cross Sector Advisory Panel.

Zeal Hamilton focuses on creating communities of belonging and identity and believing in young people until they believe in themselves. Zeal Hamilton helps young people feel as though they are active agents in their own journey and a part of something larger than themselves. They want and need something that takes them as they are and gives them a place of belonging.

Lehi believes in looking at young people as they are, not what they need to be in the future. He explained that giving time to youth is an extremely important factor. He also believes that high schools can learn from youth development facilities (or youth centres), but that current systems often don’t have the luxury to award that time and devotion to empower them to develop their skills and sense of self.

One of the reasons he is motivated to do his work at Zeal Hamilton is because he likes to see the positive differences in the lives of people around him. He thinks that young people are full of passion and when relationships are cultivated and supported holistically, their passions can thrive. The relationships created at Zeal Hamilton are crucial to the development of young people and the purposeful sharing of lives.

“We see ourselves as Alongsiders. While a young person may be seeing different counsellors, teachers, social workers, and even whānau, we aim to be the consistent adult presence in a young person’s life.”

He enjoys strategic thinking and likes that he can apply that to his work at Zeal Hamilton. “I enjoy finding new ways forward, whether it’s with funding, education, youth development or creativity.”