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Cook Islands 2019 - Advanced Student Leaders Course

Course photo at the NZ High Commissioners Residence in Rarotonga

Course photo at the NZ High Commissioners Residence in Rarotonga

What an exceptional group of young leaders, who we had the pleasure of getting to know over a week of intense functional leadership training on the island of Rarotonga. 27 year 12 and 13 New Zealand high school students travelled from across the country to meet in Auckland before departing for Raro. Students came from - Kavanagh College, St Mary’s College, Central Southland College, Mount Roskill Grammar School, Otaki College, Gore High School, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Wānanga Whare Tapere o Takitimu, Tongariro School, Sacred Heart Girls' College Hamilton, Mount Hutt College, Iona College, St Matthew’s Collegiate, Kuranui College, Fielding High School, Mahurangi College, John Paul II Greymouth, Orewa College, Northland College, Ao Tawhiti, Logan Park High School, Palmerston North Boys' High School, and Aotea College.

Once in Rarotonga we were met by 16 students from Tereora College and four students from Araura College of the outer Aitutaki island.

Students were selected to participate based on applications which detailed what leadership activities they had been involved in at school and the community over the last few years. Working with students who have a passion for leadership, service and the right character to influence others, gives us a great foundation to take their leadership ability to the next level.

Many of the students are AV geniuses, so if you'd rather see a short video summary of the course, check this out from student leader Markie Highstead...

The week started with getting to know each other, attending a church service, settling into our accommodation, followed by learning the basics of functional self and team leadership.

During the four days of practical and experiential learning of the course saw the students split into syndicates with a mix of NZ and Cook Island students in each team. Students were introduced to different business, environmental and community organisations to better understand their industry or sector, followed by teams working on real life solutions to current issues being faced in the local and wider Pacific area. We are thankful for the support of the following organisations who gave up their time to give insight and a learning opportunity to our students - Pacific Resort Group, National Environment Service (NES), To Tatou Vai, Island Craft, Red Cross, NZ High Commission, Anderson's, Bank South Pacific, and the Cook Islands Voyaging Society.

Students worked on scenarios which taught them how to lead in a group discussion setting and present a workable solution to the hosts. NES workshops had the students helping to solve issues such as dealing with waste products from both the local people and tourism sectors. Planting native trees and cleaning up beach and stream areas were also practical tasks requiring the leaders to put their skills to the test.

Pacific Resort was a great opportunity for student leaders to understand the important tourism sector for Pacific Island economy and also develop solutions relating to a shortage of housing for migrant workers in the industry.

A big thanks to Ani and the team for also helping us with some relaxation time at the end of the week!

At the Cook Islands Red Cross, Zeb had the students working on solutions for humanitarian preparedness and response for likely disasters that the Island could face. He also gave the students an insight into water safety and first aid.

Other business visits included learning about local craft and souvenir manufacturing with Fletcher Melvin from Island Craft. He asked students to work on innovative solutions to 'up-cycling' the by-products of the manufacturing process. Another business highlight was the visit to Bank South Pacific where David, Tutu and the team put a lot of effort into sharing their thoughts on leadership and how their own leadership programme worked. Coming up with ways for Cook Islanders to use digital banking services was a great opportunity for a leadership discussion.

Rounding out the local organisation activities was an engaging and insightful discussion with To Tatou Vai CEO, Brent Manning, who shared his personal leadership journey which was honest and insightful while showcasing the work being done to bring safe drinking water to the people. Sarah from the NZ High Commission engaged the students about her journey to working in the diplomatic space, while highlighting the work that is done to ensure both New Zealand and Cook Islands remain strong friends. Steve from Anderson's worked with the students to give them understanding of the reusable energy sector in the Pacific, and how solar energy is making a difference. Students developed solutions for bringing more education and affordable access of solar energy to the wider population.

Teaching the students to practice leadership through planning, decision making, communicating, co-ordinating, and evaluating their tasks, also saw them do a number of practical activities. Bush hiking, rock climbing, building survival shelters, and raft building were all ways to apply their leadership skills and qualities.

During the trip we also had Jack from Marrzipan Drama join us to help develop the students' confidence and communication skills. Additionally, Jack was able to run a one day drama workshop for some local primary school students, who were in need of a confidence boost. These young students performed in front of a large group after just one day of training - great work Jack!

A huge thanks goes to Tereora College who were our host school, allowing us the use of their facilities, equipment and helping make the whole course actually happen. Principal Tania Morgan and Head of Student Leadership Uriau George were not only instrumental in their support, but also a pleasure to work with in bringing our students together.

The New Zealand High Commission deserve mention of their support, especially in allowing our end of course ceremony to be held at the High Commissioners residence - thanks Liu! Thanks for your speech and words of wisdom Your Excellency - Tessa Temata, your acknowledgment of the importance of our future leaders was perfect.

We are also very grateful to Tania and Spark NZ for supporting our efforts, and going the extra mile for this trip to sponsor our t-shirts! We appreciate all of Tania's hard work behind the scene's and the contribution to making the course successful.

In summary, it was an amazing week with many shared learnings, the students gained new skills in how to functionally lead teams and positively influence others, while improving their own resilience and self-leadership. The integration of students from both NZ and the Cook Islands developed a deep cultural awareness, with new friends who became whanau and a trip never to be forgotten. Feedback from Tereora College teachers was very positive, as opportunities like this are not usually available for their students.

At Future Leaders we continue in our mission to help develop the next generation of leaders across the Pacific and build the strong bonds to make our part of the world a safe and progressive place for all. Keep an eye out for our next trips planned for 2020 across the Pacific region, as part of our Pacific Student Leaders Programme. Drop us a line if you want more info, or to chat about our programme.

The staff - Thank you for your passion, energy and commitment in guiding our future leaders, including our NZ based team and other supporters for your efforts.

It's with great pride in the calibre, humility and genuine desire of our youth to make a difference in the world, that we feel the future is in safe hands.

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