The Change Makers helping youth use a driver's licence as a 'catalyst for change'

  • 27/05/2022
  • Sponsored by - Dell

With more and more young people on TikTok, one community-focused couple in Auckland is using the platform to encourage at-risk youth to have the confidence to sit their driver's licence test.

Terry and Swanie Nelson run Let's Get Legal NZ, an online programme aiming to give young people the confidence to sit and pass their learner and restricted tests in the hope that having a licence will lead to greater independence and more employment and education opportunities.

Let's Get Legal NZ is this month's Dell Change Maker. Dell and The Project have been recognising New Zealanders who have made a positive social impact in the community through the Change Maker campaign.

Terry, who has spent more than a decade working with at-risk youth in south Auckland, says the inspiration for the programme came after he realised having a driver's licence not only opened up doors for work and further study for school leavers, it also did wonders for their confidence.

"That confidence [is] kind of like a catalyst for change," he says.

With both Terry and Swanie having spent many years working on community initiatives in south Auckland, they were both acutely aware of the challenges at-risk youth face in making the move from school to the workforce.

Terry currently works at Tangaroa College in Ōtara helping youth "transition into the real world" from school. His role focuses on working with students who are not university-bound, helping them gain the relevant certificates they might need for their chosen industries or post-school path.

"Because I've been on the other side, working with those who have left school and I know what they need outside of school, I wanted to get back there to help them get it while they're in school," he says.

Swanie is an elected member of the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board, and as well as Let's Get Legal NZ the couple has also instigated a number of other community initiatives such as the (Pātaka Kai) Open Street Pantry Movement and the Community Builders NZ Trust.

Terry says Let's Get Legal NZ originally started as a way to help Māori and Pasifika youth quickly obtain a photo ID. He would study with the youth in the morning and then in the afternoon they would sit their learner test. 

"A lot of those kids were the ones at the back of the classroom. Normally the naughty kids that couldn't sit still and wouldn't come back the next day to study so I had to do it all on one day," he says.

After seeing the positive effect his teaching was having, he decided to expand. "I saw it working for them and I knew it would help other people. So I created an online course that's helped people all across New Zealand over the last four, five years and it's been going really well."

Since then, he says the course, which also has an app, has helped well over a thousand youth get their licence, and has "at least a 90-percent pass rate".

Terry says there are a number of reasons why sitting their driver's licence test can be a daunting prospect for the youth he works with.

"Some of it's financial, especially during Covid, but another is not knowing what to expect. 

Because information is out there, but for them to read that information is a bit hard, [and] they get put off by people failing all the time. The pass rate is pretty low…and so it doesn't give our people confidence to go for it."

The online courses cost $20 and break down the road code in an easy-to-understand way delivered in Terry's unique teaching style.

"I made things simple and to the point, and made it a bit funny so it's engaging for them to understand," he says.

He says the secret to his success lies in his ability to "relate to people and break it down in a way they understand" and to teach youth exactly what to expect come test time.

He's also become something of a local celebrity on TikTok, racking up more than 50,000 followers.

"That's just another avenue to help people," he says. With people more disconnected than ever due to the pandemic, he says TikTok has provided a way to interact with his students in a more direct manner.

"TikTok came at a good time where I was able to talk to people…it was a bit more relatable than just reading the app or just reading words. And so through those videos and helping them understand what to expect in their test, it gave them the confidence to go for it," he says.

"And if it can help my Māori and Pacific kids and those who struggle in school, it can pretty much help anyone."

This article was created for Dell.