* Montana McGee (left) and Te Ati Poihi: new career aspirations after working with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa - PONO programme Kirikiriroa and the NZ Defence Force’s Limited Service Volunteers (LSV).
Two Waikato-Tainui rangatahi from troubled backgrounds now have military careers firmly in their sights.
It comes after the Hamilton 18-year-olds have been working with their Pae Ora Nui Ora (PONO) mentor Chantelle Biddle from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and attending the NZ Defence Force’s Limited Service Volunteers (LSV) programme.
Montana McGee, who’s keen to join the navy, and Te Ati Poihi, who’s eyeing an army role, say they’ve got heaps from working with their PONO mentor and the NZDF.
Montana says she’s made “friends for life” on the LSV course and that she “loved it - stressful at times but loved the structure and discipline”.
Te Ati, meanwhile, says the best things he got out of LSV are “the friends I made, the confidence I have now and I’m really motivated to get a job and one day join the army”.
“I have heaps of cool new skills too.”
Montana, from Nawton, had been referred to the PONO mentoring programme by Te Wānanga O Aotearoa after being kicked out of home by her mum.
PONO is aimed at Māori rangatahi in Waikato. It is a programme funded by Te Puni Kokiri and is a collaborative initiative delivered by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Te Ahurei a Rangatahi and Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa.
Working with her PONO mentor at Te Wananga O Aotearoa helped her “come out of my shell”, Montana says.
She then got involved with the LSV course at Whenuapai air base as well.
Of her involvement with LSV, Montana says: “I wanted to change my environment. Lots of people told me to go because the experience would be life-changing.
“It taught me self-discipline, motivation, self-confidence, teamwork. We had heaps of CTs (corrective training), physical training, early morning activities, camps, longest day challenges and team bonding.”
After the PONO program finishes, she’ll still be involved with the LSV graduates Future Leaders programme and is considering what trade she’d like to do in the navy.
“Maybe logistics or in weapons. I just know I one day want to go back to LSV and be a trainer.”
She suggests other rangatahi wanting to get ahead should remember that the “only thing you can control is you”.
“Put yourself out there. Live in the moment. Definitely do LSV, you will either love it or hate it but you will learn a lot about yourself.”
Te Ati, from Kirikiriroa’s inner city, also encourages other rangatahi to try LSV.
He got involved with the PONO programme as his mum was looking for him to get additional support as he hadn’t been to school since he was 15 and had no qualifications.
He’s really appreciated the help. Opting for the LSV course was fueled by his desire to join the army. “I thought it would be a good stepping stone.”
For him, LSV involved “really early mornings, lots of running and training, discipline, team work, CTs which everyone did as a team”.
He loved the military environment. “The structure and discipline was good.”
Te Ati is also working with Future Leaders and, in the short term, is looking for civilian work but his long-term goal is to join the army.
Like Montana, he encourages other rangatahi to try LSV. “It’s life-changing and you make a lot of friends.”