Although only 26 herself, social worker Amy Kahukura believes life for children these days is much more difficult than when she was at school.
    She said that is a result of our preoccupation with social media, with children trying to live up to unrealistic ideas of what life should be like, and cyber-bullying following them beyond the schoolyard.
    Mrs Kahukura began a fiveyear contract earlier this year with the Cromwell Youth Trust as its social worker in schools — funded by Highlands Motorsport Park after they identified an urgent need for such a role.
    Mrs Kahukura was born in Lumsden and grew up in Te Anau before heading to Dunedin and the University of Otago. She completed a BSc in psychology and a master in social and community work, working at a disability centre during her postgraduate study.
    She then worked for Oranga Tamariki on care and protection social work, which brought her into contact with families more than children, she said.
    She was told the position was coming up by two Youth Trust staff members and applied when it went up on job boards.
    ‘‘I wanted to work more with children and helping children,’’ she said.
    Her partner was born in Omakau, which made relocating to Central Otago even more attractive.
    She spends two days a week at Goldfields Primary School and two days at Cromwell Primary School, and plans to add time at Cromwell College to her schedule this year.
    She said her age works to her advantage with older students as they open up to her more easily because they can relate to her.
    That opening up is integral to her work with children.
    ‘‘The main thing is just to hear them without judging, to just let them know someone is listening and there to help.
    Highlands chief executive officer Josie Spillane said the initiative came about because owner, Tony Quinn, wanted to do something that would make a meaningful and positive impact on their Cromwell community.
    ‘‘Our teams live and work in Cromwell and this was something that we certainly saw was needed.’’
    She said Highlands could not be prouder of Mrs Kahukura and the welcome she has received.
    ‘‘We are delighted with the feedback we have received from the schools and some of the families whose children Amy has worked with.’’