Obedience makes the difference

                                         Getting in the Inzone: tackling Auckland’s grammar zones                                       

BEVAN READ/ FAIRFAX NZ InZone founder Terrance Wallace is proud of the boys in his charge.

Obedience is EVERYTHING:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV)

Frazer Strickland often asks himself where he would be now if he wasn’t living in a sprawling two-storey weatherboard villa with 55 other boys.

One thing the 18-year-old does know is he wouldn’t be completing his final year at Auckland Grammar School. “I would’ve dropped out,” he says.

Strickland is one of the students who live at InZone, a boarding hostel that takes Maori and Pacific Island teens and gives them a home and support inside the coveted boundaries of the Grammar school zone.

“I just know that through this place there’s been times when I’ve wanted to drop out and take the easy way out,” says Strickland. “But with having the boys around you and the mentors to support you – having that in place has kept me going for the five years here.”

Frazer Strickland, 18, and Royden Takataka, 15, say they don’t don’t know where they would be if InZone hadn’t given them an opportunity to pursue their education.

EMMA JONES Terrance Wallace, director of the InZone Project, gives credit to the kids in his care for their achievements.

He says he feels blessed to be there but also for having parents that wanted him to go. “We’re not really a wealthy family, but my parents have done a lot to get me here. I see my Dad working extra hours just so I get this opportunity, which is one of my main motivators to stay so I can pay them back one day.”

Strickland would not have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for one person – American Terrance Wallace.

About five years ago, Wallace was sitting in his office on a typically windy day in Chicago, contemplating how settled he was in his life. He’d bought a new house and was enjoying his job as a youth pastor. 

It was then that he was overcome by what could only be described as a higher calling.

“I felt God saying that I had to go to New Zealand,” he says. “So I looked at the globe in my office at this little bitty island and thought ‘heck I don’t even know how to swim!'”

Four weeks later, he was in New Zealand – even if he wasn’t quite sure why.”I knew God was telling me I needed to do it, but I didn’t know what.

“I was thinking ‘what the heck am I doing here – this is paradise, what could I do to help?'”

Five long weeks later, he finally had his answer. “I saw this news story on the TV about Maori and Pacific Island underachievement and not having the qualifications to go to university and I then started seeing other stories as well and I thought ‘I know, that’s where I need to help’.”

From that point, Wallace’s plans fell rapidly into place. He initially, planned to help in after-school programmes – something he had experience with back in the US – but was shocked to find that they didn’t exist in New Zealand schools. Dismayed, he embarked on a six-month tour of schools, predominantly in the Far North, he had identified as having “challenges”.

“The challenges that kids faced were not from the decile ranking of the school, although some schools didn’t have a lot of facilities and some of the teachers weren’t all that motivated,” he says. “But mainly the challenges those kids faced were the barriers in the community and at home.”

Wallace cites peer pressure, lack of parental support and severely stretched teachers as the main factors. “Some of the kids had great parents, who were working hard to provide for their kids but couldn’t provide extra tutorial support or monitor what they were getting up to. Then you have teachers trying to deliver a 40-minute curriculum but having to do 20 minutes of social service with kids.”

The impact, he says, was children falling far behind in their education and then not having the confidence to sit their exams. He feels that was only made worse by a dumbed-down curriculum, thanks to NCEA’s flexibility.

“Some educators aren’t looking at subjects that help the students get into university, only subjects that just make up credits, but have no value.”

The result of his research was the idea of giving Maori and Pacifica students access to the best schools, but with wrap-around support to ensure it worked. He had his mission, he had the confidence he could deliver it – he just needed the right school. Auckland Grammar was a good match: strong academically, good at sports, and a strong old boy’s network. He visited the then-headmaster, John Morris.

“I said ‘I’m Terrance and this is what I want to do’, to which he replied ‘how long have you been in the country and you’ve already figured out how to get around the law!’, but I had no clue about the zoning law, I just thought they needed to be close to the school.”

Grammar was already in the process of identifying ways to better engage the Maori and Pacific communities, so despite their scepticism at how new to the country Wallace was, they signed on. InZone was born.

“John Morris asked me at the start how many years it would take me to get it off the ground,” smiles Wallace. “And when I told him it would be in the next six months he said ‘I admire your ambition Mr Wallace but things don’t happen that quickly’, and I said ‘well, you just don’t know my God’.”

The InZone house opened six months later, in late 2011. Already, they’ve expanded from the original site on Owens Rd, in the wealthy suburb of Epsom, to a second house nearby for girls, who attend Epsom Girls Grammar. Students apply to be accepted into the house – a selection process Wallace describes as tough, but essential to producing the right mix of motivated students.

“Regardless of how well off a family is, parents are working longer hours nowadays and when kids get home from school they need that extra tutoring support, they need that confidence building, inspirational role models and many parents today can’t provide all that. On top of that the kids may be getting peer-pressured from others in the community.”

Wallace says they are able to instil the sort of discipline into the students’ lives outside of school that enables them to focus and achieve. For instance, mobile devices are taken away during study hours and again at bedtime, which is at 9.30pm. On the dot.

Wallace was alarmed at the large number of youth suicides in New Zealand. But he hopes to combat that by teaching students resilience.

“In the last three weeks, there have been three kids that have committed suicide that were friends of our boys and girls and they have been really impacted by it. It’s a constant reminder that there’s a vulnerability with kids that age.

“In the time I’ve been here never in my life have I known of so many young people choosing to take that route. I really think one reason is they don’t have that resilience to cope with things, they’re not necessarily taught it.”

Warren Cook, the resident Senior Housemaster, knows all too well about the pressures young people face: his own son is a student at InZone. He and his wife provide pastoral support to the boys around the clock.

“They come to my wife and I and we support them through the other stuff they’re going through,” Cook says. “The boys aren’t numbers here, we know every boy, their background, their family makeup, every issue they have – without having to grab a file.

“I’m the ‘grumpy one’, the boys call it: I do the growling, but my wife is definitely the ‘mum’ of the hostel. The boys will go to her and tell her some pretty deep stuff.”

Cook has a gleam in his eye when he tells of one of InZone’s success stories: a boy who has defied all odds to achieve remarkable feats.

“Auckland Grammar classes are ranked from A to P [with A being the brightest], but in his first year he was put in a newly created class – Q.”

Instead of being dissuaded by this, Cook says the boy “worked his butt off”. He made the 1st XV in 5th form. By 7th form he was shortlisted for head boy, and although he missed out he was made a senior prefect and also captain of the 1st XV. He was also named as one of the top 53 rugby players in the country, made the U19 Barbarians side and captained it.

Now, he’s applying to university.

“This was against all odds, at any stage he could’ve just pulled the pin, but he found the drive.”

If InZone wasn’t around, many of the students’ lives could have turned out differently.


And it’s Wallace’s passion that’s driven project, not that he’s takin the credit:  

“It’s the students. They are the authors of their own books – we just support them.”

January 24 2016 by Emma Jones | Source:  stuff.co.nz | Sunday Star Times | "Getting in the Inzone: tackling Auckland's grammar zones" | Stuff.co.nz

Think on this:

1 Samuel 15:22

22 And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to hearken than the fat of rams.

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