An Intervention in Te Atatu
Above: the aftermath of a car crash involving a stolen car driven by teenagers, Hobsonville, 2012.
Paul O’Leary-Ryan said, “I heard a thump.” It was about 6am yesterday morning. The lights in his house in Te Atatu peninsula went off, and then came back on again. “I thought, ‘That might not have been good. Something’s happened.’” A few minutes later, he heard the sirens.
Ethan Corteze Scott was killed when a stolen car smashed into a power pole on Yeovil Street. He was in the back seat. Two other boys were in the car. One was Ethan’s brother. Ethan was 14.
O’Leary-Ryan teaches at Rutherford Primary School in Te Atatu; when police released Ethan’s name, his heart skipped a beat – he thought he knew the boy, had taught him at primary. He realised he had got the name mixed up with someone else.
He said, “Every primary schoolteacher on the peninsula would have thought, ‘Was he one of ours? Did I teach him?’
“We’re a little community out here. There are three primary schools, and we’re all linked. Everyone’s been talking about what happened yesterday. It’s such a waste. And what a huge loss to that family.”
The death has sickened him, made him even more determined to do what he can to prevent it from happening again, to kids who he does teach. O’Leary-Ryan is trying to put an intervention programme in place for eight boys at Rutherford. It costs $1500. He’s asked local businesses to support it, and has been frustrated with the response.
“We’re sitting here knowing that intervention at primary school can make a difference. The whole idea of it is that it enables kids to make good choices. Ethan obviously hadn’t. He was in a stolen car. It was being driven way too fast.”
Rutherford hosted a similar programme two years ago. The boys were aged from seven to ten.
“Any of them could have been at risk. There was one boy from a good middle-class background, a loving family, with crushingly low self-esteem. Wouldn’t talk. Another boy had no good male role models in his life. If he was using his father as a role model, for instance… Put it this way. Trying to emulate him would not have been ideal.
“And the results of the programme were drastic. The kid who wouldn’t talk is now showcasing his talents at intermediate school. The kid who was headed for a bad end now has leadership skills, and has turned his life around. We’ve seen the results. They work.”
He has identified the kids who would go on the course this year.
He said, “They’re not violent or abusive. They’re just kids who need a little something more than what the standard curriculum offers. It shows them there’s a different way of being, that they can make sensible, informed choices. They’d basically know better than to break into a car and steal the keys.”
The programme, run by Henderson-based Change Works, is held over a seven-week period. O’Leary-Ryan is asking for support from businesses or individuals to cover the $1500 cost – and who want to invest in the lives of young boys at risk.