I didnt have a good past, but its up to me to have a good future.

‘I didn’t have a good past, but it’s up to me to have a good future.’ -Monique, 17.

Seventeen year old Monique celebrates the theme of NZ Youth Week this year at the same time as celebrating her very first Mother’s Day on Sunday.

Monique comes from a very troubled childhood, of anti-social behaviour and mental health issues. And at seventeen she is due to give birth to her first baby soon after Mother’s Day. Some would see this as a failure. But Monique refuses to feel helpless or hopeless. She started to turn her life around two years ago, and isn’t about to stop now.

Monique’s downward spiral began at 11 when she began smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol and missing school. From there it was a short step to smoking marijuana and moving on to ecstasy and cocaine. This, along with violent behaviour and fighting, saw Monique expelled from two different colleges by age 14.

Monique was also diagnosed with anorexia, shortly before being removed from her birth parents and put into foster care. However, the foster placement was not a good match.

‘I didn’t feel I could relax and be myself’.

At 15 Monique quit school. Eight months later, she ran away from her first of many foster placements.

This is when Monique came to Youth Horizons through a stay at the Lighthouse, which provides emergency short-term placement for at risk young people.

Following this Monique was placed into a girls’ residential home where she stayed for two years. Throughout her time in care, even though her behaviour improved, Monique struggled to find people who could understand her.

Monique was given her own personal advisor at Youth Horizons, Joe Seniloli, it was his job to help Monique learn the skills she needed to transition from state care to independent living.

Joe was able to speak from experience to Monique. Something that Monique valued and hopes to do when she becomes a youth advocate lawyer, herself one day. Joe has helped her to overcome her obstacles and pushed her to reach her goals. He has also become her staunchest advocate, as well as her coach, and he will continue in this role until Monique is 20.

“I know that it’s Youth Week and they are telling us we should Live Like a Legend, and Joe is my legend”.

Monique says that after she has had her baby her first step towards achieving her long-term career goal is to complete the remainder of her NCEA levels.

‘My goal is to study to become a lawyer and a youth advocate. I want to help others. I want to be a good mum. I don’t want my daughter to go through what I went through.’

‘I’ve got choices, I know this now, and I tell others I see starting on the wrong path that they have choices too.’