Amelia Herbert was 16 when she found out she was pregnant. She’d left school, was working at The Warehouse, and living at home with her family and her boyfriend.
The teen mum made a decision to turn her life around. This year she achieved that goal when she was named the Outward Bound Trust of New Zealand’s 2013 Ambassador.
Herbert, now 22, and mum of Harlem, 5, is about to finish her second year of an outdoor education degree. She is also working as a gym instructor, and a volunteer match analyst for her brother’s rugby league team.
Her goal is to live and work as an outdoor instructor at the Outward Bound school after she completes her studies.
“I’ve decided I want to help people realise their full potential,” she says. “The instructors and their family live onsite at Anakiwa, and I think it will be a rich life for Harlem to grow up with other children who experience the best of the outdoors. “
Long term, Amelia intends to change the lives of Northland kids through outdoor education. She wants youth to know outdoor adventure is accessible to them.
“I’ve noticed two things in Northland. There are too many youth who are troubled. There is nothing guiding them and they are dropping out of school too early. We need better teachers to help stop this from happening,” she says. “I’ve also noticed that the outdoors plays a big part in the lives of Northland kids – we swim, we hunt, we’re a hands-on community. I believe outdoor education is the way to connect youth with real futures.”
As Outward Bound Ambassador for 2013, Herbert stands alongside past ambassadors who include Olympian BMX medallist Sarah Walker, world record holder cyclist Phillipa Gray and adventurer Mark Inglis.
In her new role she has been visiting teen parent units around New Zealand and talking to teen mums about her journey.
“It’s a real honour,” says Herbert. “Being given the chance to encourage and inspire others to achieve their goals is awesome. It’s what I love to do.”
When Herbert found out she was having a baby, for her baby’s sake, she says she absolutely knew she had to go back to school and finish her education.
“At the time I signed up at He Matariki Teen Parent School in Whangarei, and they have a community partnership with Outward Bound, the adventure school in Queen Charlotte Sound. I learned Outward Bound is working with over 60 community organisations offering funded opportunities for people to experience their courses in Anakiwa, a place where the classrooms are the great outdoors and people are shown their true potential by being pushed to their limits, physically and mentally. It’s here that people change direction out at sea, and for some, their lives. I liked the sound of the place.”
Harlem was 2 when Amelia attended Outward Bound for three weeks. It was the first time she’d left him longer than two hours. Also the first time she had left the North Island and been on a plane.
“Leaving my boy was the biggest challenge. I probably cried most days but it turned out it was great for both of us – he forged greater ties with the rest of our family and it was at Outward Bound I discovered what I wanted to do with my life,”
While in the Marlborough Sound, Amelia ran before sunrise, climbed rock faces blindfolded, walked a rope amongst the treetops, and swam in the sea at sundown. “I was very unfit when I arrived, but every day I improved my personal best on the morning run. I completed my first half marathon at the end of the course, it was hard but so rewarding.”
She says her experience at Outward Bound helped her decide her long term goals, values, and opened her eyes to her love of the outdoors and adventure.
“At this point I knew I wanted to go down the path of outdoor education. It was a done deal,” she says. “I’ve had many challenges in my life but I’ve always tried to let a positive attitude shine through. I want to bring my son up like this, and close to the outdoors.”