The 24-year-old was named the 2017 New Zealand National Institute Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Apprentice of the Year awards but it almost didn’t come about.
After starting his apprenticeship in 2010, Morris-Ponga found that he enjoyed the practical side of the job but the large amount of paperwork and a strained relationship with his boss caused him to leave after 24 months in the job.
It was after two years of tree-cutting with rugby friends that Denzel decided it was time to return to his apprenticeship, after being told of a job opening through an engineer friend.
“The second time round I had more drive to finish what I had started and I was also not afraid to ask questions of my new boss, Annemarie Begg, at White Refrigeration”.
Morris-Ponga who grew up in Ngatangiia, attended Apii Te Uki Ou and Tereora College before transferring to Massey High in Auckland for his final year of school in 2009.
Denzel’s mum Melinda said the family made the decision to send him back to Auckland to give him a more settled environment.
“He moved in with his Nana and Papa and they provided a patient and loving home for him. His great uncle Ma’a who also lived with them would drive Denzel to and from school each morning as they lived out of zone for Massey,” she said.
As part of the competition for the apprentice of the year, Denzel and the other competitors were required to show their skills in a variety of situations, including making up an air conditioning unit from scratch.
As a result of winning the overall award, Denzel received over $10,000 worth of tools and additional prizes and is also now an apprentice ambassador and will be travelling to various career expo’s to talk to young people.
Melinda said the family felt that Denzel’s story of persistence could perhaps inspire the youngsters on the island to not give up but that it is also okay to fall down, learn from it and to get back up.