City pupils earn top academy honours

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 19/11/2012

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Mastering bushcraft, white-water rafting and mountain trekking is all in a day's schoolwork for 13 Palmerston North pupils who have marched to the head of their field.

Queen Elizabeth College's new Service Academy has wrapped up its debut year to place first in the North Island.

The academy started in February and is the first of its kind in Manawatu. It offers a military environment and employment training for up to 20 pupils who sign up in the hopes of gaining practical careers such as in the Fire Service, Defence Force, NZ Police or Customs.

Academy director Lance Tahiwi has a decade's experience instructing navy recruits, and brings his military chops to the classroom. He said the programme was an "eye- opener" for kids.

"The challenge was to build their self-confidence with respect to the academy, and to bring [those] values back home and to the community, as well as to their school and uniform."

The daily drill involves preparing uniforms for inspection, physical training, and aptitude testing in literacy and numeracy.

But a real highlight was a field trip to Waiouru Military Camp where the pupils earned the title of Best Academy Overall from 10 in the North Island. They later won an Adventure Challenge, tasked with activities such as mountainbiking, tramping, and white-water rafting. The QEC pupils also took home the North Island Academies Longest Day trophy for a 12-hour cross-country endurance race requiring them to carry logs and equipment across difficult terrain.

But all that hard work will not earn anyone a free ticket into a Defence Force career, Mr Tahiwi emphasised.

The academy's main purpose was to equip pupils with skills and life experience to guide them into any workplace, he said.

Academy pupil Iosefa Mataora, 17, has applied to join the navy and reckoned he had come a long way.

"I thought it was going to be a lot easier in the first couple of weeks. It was really scary - we changed how we dressed and we had to iron our gear."

Tui Warbrick, also 17, had used the skills learnt in the academy to knuckle down and planned to apply for a Customs job.

"It has certainly been tough, all the self-discipline and knowing right from wrong . . . and maintaining a good standard of dress" she said. "It has been quite a change for me."

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- Manawatu Standard

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