Meet Drew:

Drew Paten is a proud Gunai/ Kurnai man from Gippsland, Victoria, with ties to Papakura, and Aotearoa. Over the last five years, Drew Paten has led various roles from Program and Mentoring Delivery, Recruitment, Global Operations in the US, and is currently the Co-Chief Executive Officer at AIME Mentoring. His focus is on building bridges between marginalised young people and those who hold power, helping to alleviate educational inequity. An essential passion is amplifying youth voice and representation of young people in decision making, on platforms, and in rooms that have not previously done so.

Click here to learn more about AIME Mentoring.

How can we make effective intergenerational collaboration between young people and decision-makers happen?

Making space for young people to be heard and understood is critical; it is necessary that young people are seen as equal in every discussion. Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need to build bridges between our young people and decision-makers. To tackle the complexity of inequity, we need to influence the ecosystem around our young people by making space for executives to give kids a seat in the boardroom; by activating citizens to commit to making a change in their community; by creating jobs and opportunities for our young people. This is why it is integral that youth involvement doesn’t stop at the consultation, and it is carried out through all projects with the mentorship and guidance of decision-makers.

How can we create a meaningful and resourceful mentoring space between youth and adults? What would be the structure of such a space?

We can create and maintain a safe mentoring space between youth and adults by building bridges across societal divides and creating unlikely connections. In AIME’s IMAGI-NATION{University} we connect people to co-exist in these spaces. A high school student sits side-by-side with a citizen, executive, teacher, and university student. Within their tutorial group, {Uni} students get to exchange time, knowledge, and understanding. Together they rewrite the narrative and create system-wide change.

How do you think we can involve young people who want to make an impact but do not have easy access to getting involved (because of language, lack of network, difficulties to access and use technology tools)?

The solutions to so many of these challenges exist already. The key is being able to build bridges between individuals, organisations, and networks. Whether it’s the large tech firms, people who hold wealth, or local university students who want to mentor – everyone can play a role in providing opportunities for young leaders. When young people take the stage at AIME, we see leadership, solutions, inspiration, and this is so positive to share, particularly in hard times, like we have seen with COVID-19.

What is your advice for young people who want to make a positive impact? How should they begin?

  • Ask yourself what change you want to see, ask your friends, family, and peers.
  • Write it down, say it out loud, make yourself accountable.
  • Ask questions, listen, research, study and read.
  • Know yourself and values
  • Find people with a common interest and get yourself some mentors.
  • Most importantly, don’t sit around thinking you’re too young to lead or too young to make a contribution or impact. Your input and voice matter now more than ever.

What would you like to tell decision-makers?

Young people are not a problem to be fixed but a solution when given the stage.

Following the ‘Uluru Statement From The Heart’, in 2019, a group of young Indigenous people have gathered in East Arnhem Land for the Youth Forum at Garma. The youth forum was facilitated by AIME and resulted in a Declaration for the Prime Minister and Education Minister’s across Australia – The Imagination Declaration.

Since 2019, we’ve seen many students stand up and take on the challenges they are currently facing; through AIMEs programs in schools, on University campuses and within IMAGI-NATION{University}. It’s vital that now more than ever, decision-makers make space for youth to create solutions, problem solve and imagine the future they want to see.

(Photo courtesy: Drew Paten; copyright: Drew Paten)