Rocket man launches academy


Work hard and dream big was the mes­sage from a real rocket man to Manawatu Maori stu­dents and their whanau.

For­mer as­tro­naut Colonel Rick Sear­foss teamed up with Maori aero­space en­gi­neer Mana Vau­tier from Nasa to help launch Puhoro, an education pro­gramme de­signed to give young Maori ad­di­tional sup­port in sci­ence and math­e­mat­ics.

Rick, who has been to space three times and com­manded his own space mis­sion, says there was a need for hard­work­ing young peo­ple to come through into the work­force.

‘‘There are many chal­lenges to face, but a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties are out there and I en­cour­age you all to take them,’’ he says.

The mes­sage about de­vel­op­ing a strong work ethic and fol­low­ing dreams was re­it­er­ated by Mana.

Start­ing his work­ing ca­reer at McDon­ald’s, he re­vealed how he had taken on any num­ber of jobs in­clud­ing mow­ing lawns, paint­ing, and be­ing on the back of a rub­bish truck, but he never gave up on his dream to be­come an as­tro­naut.

Massey Univer­sity as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of academy pro­grammes Namoi Manu says one of the rea­sons be­hind the new academy is due to the high rate of Maori stu­dents drop­ping sci­ence and math­e­mat­ics af­ter NCEA level one.

‘‘We want to make sure there is con­sis­tent sup­port for th­ese stu­dents, keep them in their classes and re­duce that drop-off be­tween level one and level two.’’

About 80 Maori NCEA level one stu­dents from Te Kura o Kauwhata, Manukura, Hato Paora, Feild­ing High School, Awat­apu Col­lege and Palmer­ston North Boys’ High School will take part in Puhoro. It will see them par­tic­i­pat­ing in ex­tra lab classes and fort­nightly tu­to­ri­als in their own time above and be­yond their usual school classes.

‘‘We have an op­por­tu­nity to teach th­ese stu­dents ex­tra skills and en­cour­age them to choose from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ca­reers,’’ Naomi says.

Ex­cited about Satur­day’s Con­ven­tion Cen­tre launch of the pi­lot pro­gramme, she hopes it will even­tu­ally be rolled out across New Zealand.


For­mer Nasa as­tro­naut Colonel Rick Sear­foss speaks at the sci­ence academy for Maori ter­tiary and univer­sity stu­dents launch at the Cen­ten­nial Con­ven­tion Cen­tre on Satur­day.

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