Our Stories: Ella Kalmakoff

By Connor Boyle | Posted: Monday December 17, 2018

This is the story of a young woman who started making some bad decisions and how she turned it all around with the help of one of our youth workers.

It was hard on mum when I started getting in to trouble. Shoplifting, sneaking out to drink and go to parties, lying, wagging school. Every single day. I used to be such a nice innocent little girl. She knew it wasn’t me. She was trying to talk to me about it but I’d just explode into big arguments. We’d be screaming at each other. I’d punch walls and have bruised knuckles. Now it’s so much better, we hardly ever have arguments, and they’re only minor normal arguments now. 

When I stopped going to lots of classes my school put me in to a group to work with Fiona from the Malcam Trust. It was the highlight of my week. At first we would just talk about future careers and asking me what I really wanted to do in life. 

Fiona really understood me. She heard my story and I knew she really heard me. She was able to give me good advice. That was when I realised if I want to do well in life and actually have a job that I love then I’ve got to stop all this stuff, I’ve got to stay in school. If I could talk to my past self I would say “Think about the future you want and your actions now, how are they gonna affect that future?” 

I got sent to London House after I spoke back to a teacher one too many times. Fiona came to visit me there and talking with her I realised that I actually wanted to be at school when I wasn’t around a particular group of friends. 

It’s not like it was my friend’s fault, we were all responsible for pressuring each other. We hung out all the time and didn’t really have other friends. When your only friends are doing something you know that if you choose not to do it then you’ll be out of the group, you won’t have any friends. It puts lots of pressure on you to do some pretty bad stuff. I even took the fall for one of my friends multiple times. 

Looking back now I felt trapped. It wasn’t me, that person that I was showing to everyone else. The rude, disruptive person with no sense of how my actions affected others. It was a reflection of my friends. In order to make the changes I needed to to stay at school I had to distance myself from those friends. I didn’t want to lose them completely, I still like them, but I couldn’t keep doing that stuff. 

I realised that to stay there I had to knuckle down and do some work. Hard work. It’s really paid off. I’m going for merit-endorsed NCEA now and I got an academic achievement award recently. 

I made lots of people feel sad in the past, I bullied people. Now I’m trying to do more good things for people around me. I did a speech on peer pressure for an assignment which everyone responded to really well, they loved it! I stood up for a girl getting bullied in the canteen the other day, which made me realise that a year ago I was the one doing the bullying. Looking back now I’m so grateful for the support I had around me. 

You can read the other half of this story from the perspective of Megan Walker, Ella's mum, on our News page.