This is the first time the Pacific Advanced Students Leaders Programme will be offered on Rarotonga; its first iteration was run by an organisation called Future Leaders on Aitutaki two years ago.
The story began with the managing director of Future Leaders, Jethro Gilbert, honeymooning on Aitutaki.
Speaking with some local people, he noticed interest in a leadership programme being offered for local students. Following those conversations, the programme was delivered for 50 Araura College students in 2017.
The programme has since been offered in Fiji, and in October will run on Rarotonga. Next year, it returns to the Cook Islands and runs in the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Samoa.
Gilbert describes the students coming from New Zealand as “high calibre”, given they had to prove their leadership skills and experience, whether through student council or youth group or sports or some other area, during an application process. Thirty-five of 60 applicants were accepted.
Whereas New Zealand students pay $3000 to participate, local students pay $100.
Future Leaders is partnering with Tereora College and Araura College to deliver this weeklong programme. Twenty Year 12 students were selected to participate, on the basis of academic and community achievement—16 from Rarotonga and four from Aitutaki.
The programme seeks to broaden participants’ view of the world and teach them about the kind of leadership required to achieve sustainable development.
The programme includes outdoor and adventure activity, environmental education, business mentorship and learning, wellbeing education, and humanitarian projects.
Local partners will be collaborating with Future Leaders to provide participants with a well-rounded educational experience. These include Island Craft, Air Rarotonga, Cook Islands Red Cross, Cook Islands Voyaging Society, House of Ariki, and the National Environment Service.
Incorporating the principles of good stewardship is critical in this era of climate change, Gilbert said.
“It’s very important for … students to be concerned and involved with climate and the environment at the moment, so it’s important we make that part of our programme.”
He added, the programme is likely to involve tree planting, beach clean-ups, and educational workshops around how young people can lead change in the environmental management sector.
The New Zealand students will be staying at an Avarua hostel from October 5, and Future Leaders welcomes involvement with any community groups, businesses, or government groups.
“Whoever wants to be involved, really,” Gilbert said.
The programme is supported by the New Zealand High Commission and is likely to be repeated each year.