Boot camp lights the way to a lawful life
Getting to know the person beneath the police uniform may prove to be a turning point in the life of Invercargill teenager Jacinta Tetua.
The 16-year-old, in her final year at Aurora College, has been awarded the top prize of overall merit award at the recent Blue Light Life Skills Camp held at the New Zealand Defence Force base in Burnham, Christchurch.
The week-long camp was run by New Zealand Blue Light in partnership with New Zealand Police and the Defence Force.
Organisers say an important part of the camp was to allow young people to get to know police as real people and break down the barriers the uniform can create.
This will hopefully reduce the incidence of young people offending or being a victim of crime and encourage better relationships between young people, their parents, the police and communities they live in.
Jacinta said attending the course put many things into perspective.
Realising that police were "not that bad and were actually good people" was a new experience for the softly spoken year 13 student, who had been in trouble with the law.
She said the course, run like an army boot camp, was tough but opened her eyes to the possibility of a brighter future.
"After talking with people from the New Zealand Navy, joining the navy could be something I might think about," she said.
Jacinta said she did not think she would win the award because there were lots of other kids at the camp.
"I think I made my family proud and now I want to change my life before it's too late," she said.
After she was recommended for the course by Child Youth and Family, Jacinta's father Anthony said his daughter had come back a different person. "The course has brought Jacinta out of her shell and I think it was a big wake-up call for her."
"She was getting into trouble like all kids do but we are confident she will now realise she can do something positive in her life. Both dad and mum are very proud."
Blue Light Life Skills co-ordinator Valarie Seath said Jacinta won the Overall Merit Award because camp staff felt she had shown significant improvement in attitude, self-discipline, self-confidence and team work and was always respectful to staff and fellow course members.
The Southland Times