Chelsey Harnell has big dreams.She never intended on being a youth worker, but now she’s hooked. “I studied sport, marketing and management at university,” she adds with a smile. The 22 year-old openly admits that she fell into her current role as a Youth Programmes Coordinator at Raise Up, the YMCA’s youth development programme. Almost one year down the track and there’s no place she’d rather be. “To fall into this role has been a blessing. It’s given me clear direction and a lot more confidence. I’ve developed as a person thanks to Raise Up,” she says, smiling.

Chelsey’s passion for Raise Up and the YMCA, a not-for-profit which relies on public donations and grants, is infectious. “I’m currently doing my Level 4 youth work as part of Raise Up. This is what I want to do, and this is where I want to be,” she says. Working with two Auckland-based crews, helping them develop as people is, she says, “like having a little group of brothers and sisters. They’ve always got a good story that makes me laugh.” And, while Raise Up is about fun and enjoyment it’s also a key platform for teenagers to engage with the local community by running events, workshops and activities. “All our Raise Up teens care about is being the change their community needs,” she says.

Chelsey, who was recently awarded the title of Raise Up Coordinator of the Year, has big ambitions. “I would like to help develop Raise Up into a nationwide programme. That’s a big dream, but that’s what I’m aiming for,” she says, smiling. “I enjoy being an opportunity maker and helping young people find their niche, whatever that may be.”

Raise Up helped Chelsey find her niche. By donating to Raise Up you can help today’s teenagers find their niche while giving back to their community.