Ser­vice academy turns life around

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

John Coombe says see­ing his son stand­ing tall, in his New Zealand Army uni­form, makes his chest swell with pride.

The Wai­tan­girua man got to see his son Owen grad­u­ate from the army’s ba­sic train­ing re­cently and said he was do­ing well.

‘‘Owen ab­so­lutely loves the army,’’ he said.

‘‘Af­ter a few days back here in Porirua he said, ‘Dad, I want to go home’.

‘‘The army’s his home now. It’s made him a man and I re­spect that. I’m so proud of him.’’

Be­fore join­ing the Mana Col­lege Ser­vices Academy, Coombe said Owen was hang­ing with people who just wanted to drink al­co­hol and get in trou­ble.

Hav­ing no job and be­ing a drifter on the dole was a real pos­si­bil­ity for Owen, he said.

The dis­ci­pline and di­rec­tion Owen re­ceived from David Prosser and Tom Katu, who run the academy, was one of the rea­sons he turned his life around, Coombe said.

‘‘The op­por­tu­nity changed his life. He has met so many people and got in­cred­i­ble life skills as well as prac­ti­cal ones. I can’t thank the in­struc­tors at Mana enough; what an in­spi­ra­tion.’’

Mana Ser­vices Academy has been op­er­at­ing since 2009. Stu­dents can do NCEA stud­ies along­side mil­i­tary- fo­cused pro­grammes. They have to pa­rade each morn­ing be­fore go­ing into the class­room.

The only other ser­vices academy in the re­gion is at Nae­nae Col­lege. There are 24 acad­e­mies around New Zealand.

Prosser said the min­i­mum pri­or­ity was NCEA level 1, es­pe­cially in math­e­mat­ics and English, and other cred­its were earned by com­plet­ing out­door ed­u­ca­tion, phys­i­cal train­ing and other units.

Some academy stu­dents are al­ready be­yond usual col­lege age.

‘‘ It might be kids that are pos­si­bly dis­en­gag­ing in the main­stream and might have an in­ter­est in the armed forces,’’ he said.

‘‘We of­fer a dif­fer­ent ap­proach and it seems to be work­ing. The stu­dents re­ally re­spond to what we’re do­ing.’’

Prosser said the sup­port from Mana Col­lege prin­ci­pal Mike Web­ster and se­nior man­age­ment was piv­otal.

Owen’s younger brother would also likely join Mana Col­lege’s ser­vice academy, Coombe said.

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Armed: Owen Coombe is lov­ing the dis­ci­pline that comes with life in the army.

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