The boys and girls, aged between 12 to 17 years, successfully passed the course and their achievements were celebrated at a ceremony last Friday in the Araura College Hall in Arutanga, Aitutaki.
It was attended by deputy prime minister, Teariki Heather, Commissioner of Police Maara Tetava, Patron Janet Maki, the deputy mayor for Aitutaki Papa Terepoto Terepoto, and parents, families and friends of the graduates.
The course started on October 17, with 22 enthusiastic participants - 18 boys and four girls. The course aimed to provide them with the skills required to excel in the work environment and society as future leaders.
Participants were encouraged to work and perform in both as individuals and as part of a team to develop their confidence and self-esteem.
This is the fifth such course delivered in the Cook Islands. It is a partnership between the New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Blue lights Youth, New Zealand Police and the Cook Islands Police Service.
Tetava said: “It started off with a desire to do more for our young people by instilling some discipline and leadership skills in them so that they can become better citizens and, maybe, leaders of our country in the future.”
“Inspector Kevin Kneebone of the New Zealand Police, who was then working as an adviser to the Cook Islands Police Service under the New Zealand 3Ps programme and I got to talk about this a lot, that discussion led to more discussions with the New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Blue Lights Youth, and the New Zealand Police.
“They saw merit in the idea of bringing what was a New Zealand programme, adapting it to suit the Cook Islands and delivering it in the Cook Islands. The rest is history.”
Tetava said: “Our government is very supportive of this programme. The past two courses have been fully funded by our government, while the other partners continue to provide support through the provision of personnel, uniforms and equipment.”
The deputy prime minister told the youngsters that they are “youths of today and leaders of tomorrow”. He emphasised “hard work and faith in God” as the pathway to succeed in life.
Heather reminded all about the famous words of former American President John Kennedy when he said “ask not what your country can do for you ... ask what you can do for your country.”
He assured all of government’s continuing support to the programme and others that has the potential to turn our future generations into “leaders of tomorrow”.
Six Cook Islands Police officers have been trained by the New Zealand Defence Force, under the Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP), to instruct in the programme.
Commissioner Tetava said: “I am most grateful to the NZDF for this as it has enabled us to own this programme and deliver it ourselves. I have, however, asked for the NZDF to continue to provide instructors and support with future programmes.”
He added: “It is a solid partnership that will continue into the future.”
Janet Maki was chosen as the patron of the course because of her outstanding achievements as a professional and a citizen of the Cook Islands.
Maki worked for the Crown Law office as a lawyer for many years before becoming the first female Solicitor-General in the Cook Islands – a position she held for many years and the first female Ombudsman in the Cook Islands. She now works for her family business on Aitutaki.
Commissioner Tetava said: “She is an outstanding model for young Cook Islanders to look up to.”
In her speech to the graduates Maki emphasised “hard work and prayer”.
“We each have a calling, follow yours and succeed. There is only one person who can stop you and it’s you.”
She added: “I have so much faith in these young people. I will be looking out and watching your progress.”
And: “I ask parents not to stop praying for your kids.”
Top awards for the course are:
Most improved for sections: Section 1 – Morgan Reese John, Section 2 – Alex Vaasa, Section 3 – Donyae Paulo David.
Top for sections: Section 1 - Pookotai Deacon Tereapii, Section 2 – Ioane Paka Tio Teokotai Tom, Section 3 - Dylan Lawrence Edney Paodoe Charlie.
Overall most improved – Iripa Totoru Maeva, James Meava.
Overall top student - Mau Junior George.
There has been outstanding support from parents, families and friends of graduates about the course. The confidence, attitudinal changes, leadership traits that it has instilled in their children not only with the current course, but also with the previous course also delivered in Aitutaki in April 2016, has been outstanding.
“Just seeing the confidence, pride and achievements recognised by their prizes and completion of the course - and the pride and tears of joy exhibited by parents, families and friends - is proof enough we have a programme that must continue to be delivered to help our youth,” Tetava said.