Mele Maliepo (right) with her mentor Yvonne Treen.

YWCA Auckland has been a helping hand to women since 1885. Over a century later, Mele Maliepo, a Year 12 student at Edmund Hillary Collegiate, is a testament to the organisation's selfless work. By TEARAWAY Maverick JESSIE CHIANG.

Since Year 10, Mele has been a part of YWCA's Future Leaders programme. Future Leaders is solely dedicated to empowering young women aged 14 to 18, by helping them to maximise their potential in life, whilst at the same time valuing their diversity.

Young women in the programme are paired with mentors, who become trusted friends and guides. For Mele, this was a woman called Yvonne Treen. 

While the idea of confiding in an adult may sound daunting at first, Mele assures me that it is all very casual. A typical session with Yvonne simply involves watching movies and hanging out together. Furthermore, her mentor’s presence has been invaluable when it comes to Mele's education. Thanks to Yvonne’s encouragement, Mele says, she is now focused on school and planning study schedules to keep on track. 

One of the most significant changes Mele has noticed since taking part in Future Leaders, is her level of confidence. Before joining the program, she was a shy, quiet girl who was afraid to talk to strangers. That is completely different now and she says that she is able to greet people she has never met, even telling them jokes. 

Future Leaders has helped Mele in ways she never imagined. The most important lesson she has learnt has been “resilience,” she says. “Keep on trying and never, ever give up.”

The Future Leaders programme is an amazing opportunity for young girls and most of us don’t even know it exists! You can find more information or apply online here.

Ladies, this is your chance to change your life for the better, develop leadership skills and gain lifelong friends who genuinely care about you and will look out for you. It is time to feel empowered!