Ten Years of HYC: Jack Collins (2019 chairperson)
Jack Collins has seen every side and angle to the youth council. As a somewhat lost rookie member, to becoming a team lead, deputy chair, and chair, Jack has grown in the council amid immense change
For Jack Collins, his first impressions of the Howick Youth Council were its people. He says it's still his favourite part of the council today.
After attending the 2015 Howick Youth Conference, Jack joined the council as the Year 12 representative of Edgewater College. He says the experience of meeting new people outside of his school community was the first thing he noticed.
“This was the first time I was meeting different people from different schools, different areas, through my own eyes, and actually really getting to know them. It was different [because] I could tell that we had different upbringings,” Jack says.
In the first two years of his tenure, Jack says the youth council members were what made the experience enjoyable for him. He felt, though, that the structure of the youth council’s fortnightly meetings weren’t right for the energy he saw in the room.
“Like, we're all walking in, having pizza, with high buzz and then the meeting starts. Then everyone would sit down around a table like it’s a massive local board. But we're all kids, and it just wasn't the right structure for what we were wanting to do. It just didn’t fit us.”
Jack went on to explain the meeting structure where members would have to move motions for discussions, second meeting items, and vote — much akin to the style of a local board meeting.
“Then, after the meeting would finish, there was no actual time in between to create meaningful interactions and social bonding or anything like that.”
The structure created an environment where he didn’t feel empowered to be creative, Jack says. “I had no real passion for it at first. When I would go, I would get ideas and stuff. But, it just wasn't a space that I could really express myself.”
Later in 2017, the youth council chose a new leadership team that focused on changing that structure. Jack largely credits the then-newly elected chair and deputy chair, Zachary Wong and Andrew Scott, with driving progress on instituting an entirely new model for the youth council.
The pair brought together returning members the following year to brainstorm ideas about how they wanted things to change and how the social elements of the youth council could be enhanced.
“I don’t think anything in the past had ever had that much support for a youth council concept or idea,” Jack says.
Implementing the new model saw the creation of team leads who would lead autonomous teams within the youth council and drive projects throughout their delivery.
Jack remembers the team lead selection process in 2018, which involved teams electing their leader from within. Jack was elected, despite what he says was a lack of experience on his part delivering projects.
“I definitely grew as a person. I never had any experiences at school that related to this experience. I never organised a team — it was always teachers telling you what to do.”
He says the changes in structure led to stronger bonds between the youth council’s members because they could gather in smaller groups every week. Jack and his team delivered the youth council’s first beach clean-up and its first Jump Jam event.
“For my team, it was quite unbalanced when it came to the social side versus the work side. It was nice coming from a really unconnected council that wanted to be connected, to a too-connected council, where the teams are just getting on too well and you’re like, well, can we have the time to get more work done?”
When it came time to elect a new leadership team for 2019, Jack says it took some convincing before he decided to run. He says that he felt his focus on the social side of the youth council, at the time, didn’t make him a right fit.
“It was Veisinia [Maka, Youth Advisory Panel representative] that convinced me to run. She said I could do it and that I would bring something to it. But, I was like, ‘I'm not organised and I'm not like Zac.’ But, she said I didn’t need to be like Zac.”
When he did end up choosing to run for chairperson, he felt he had a duty to continue the changes introduced in 2018. Jack also wanted to make the leadership team more connected.
“[I said] if I became chair, I wanted the leadership team to be a team. I didn’t want it to be one person or two people leading it — I wanted everyone in that team to have a say in what's going on.”
Once elected, Jack served alongside deputy chair Ben Fraser, secretary Caitlyn Lambert, treasurer Marcus Widvey and communications lead Irra Lee.
2019 ended up being a year of immense growth for the Howick Youth Council, with 28 members delivering 21 projects and initiatives for their community.
Reflecting on that year, Jack says two things stood out to him.
First, he says it was important he achieved his promise of a more connected leadership team. Secondly, there was a greater consensus about how essential a lively internal culture was to the youth council’s success. The latter eventually led to the creation of a dedicated council community lead that focused on the youth council’s culture and its members.
“[For me, it was important] to make sure people realise how important council culture is and in allowing that. Not just in a casual way, at just the beginning of meetings to have some fun, but actually organising social [events],” Jack says.
He says that when he was elected, he had barely spoken with his soon-to-be deputy chair Ben. But, once they got talking, a strong partnership formed and became a significant feature of the 2019 and 2020 leadership teams.
“From the get-go, we were totally opposite. Ben drove a lot of the stuff as deputy chair in conversations on the leadership team. I was the face of the council … helping deliver the plan that we, as a leadership team, organised.”
The former chair says the pair naturally bounced off each other in their chairing roles.
“I really appreciate everything he did for me back then. He really worked my strengths. He had [a chairperson] that was passionate, but not in the way of how he would normally operate in the way of planning and organising,” Jack says.
“Even today, we still have that same kind of dynamic where he'll ask me for my opinion because he knows it's going to be completely different to his.”
Instead, Jack says he tended to work “on the day” at youth council meetings and events.
“I will give all the energy I can to the council, I will get people fired up, and I will connect, and I will do all that stuff.
“I definitely think it gave me an opportunity to open my eyes, kind of see how other people work … and how passionate [Ben] was in a different kind of way to myself,” Jack says.
Retracing the five years he’s been part of the youth council, Jack says the experience greatly influenced his professional life. The 21-year-old is now working full-time as the manager of a local swim school.
“I went straight from just being a swim teacher straight to management. So, my only actual experiences of managing a team and working as a manager actually came from HYC,” he
“It opened the door for me. I think the council, over the years, really allowed me to be the best version of myself and really find out how I operate as a leader.
“It’s pretty incredible if you think about it — I got job experience for my current job from a little community group that you wouldn't think much of.”
Jack says one thing he appreciates about the youth council is there’s freedom to make mistakes.
“The council allowed me to make mistakes. There were no real repercussions from it, except for being able to learn from it.
“You know, it's not a paid job or anything. So, I think that was the best thing because, for me, I really realised that the best way I learn is by making mistakes.”
This article is part of the Howick Youth Council's ten-year anniversary history book, which features interviews from past chairpeople of the group. Read the full book here and see more standalone feature articles on our website.