"Our standards don't drop until we do," has been the mantra for the Kaitaia College Services Academy (Te Puna Mana Toa) since the day it was established in 2016.
And the third contingent of 20 students who deployed to Waiouru Military Camp for their two-week induction course well and truly met that standard, according to academy director Dudley Andrews.
Services academies, military-style classes within secondary schools, used ex-military personnel to provide a 12-month learning programme involving life skills, leadership, time management, academics, job skills, self-belief, military courses, tikanga, and an insight to the workings of and opportunities with the New Zealand Defence Force, Mr Andrews said.
The late February induction course was attended by 200 students from 14 academies north of Huntly, while students also attend military courses through the year, run by Youth Development Unit North, NZDF.
The induction was their first and most important course. Those who did not attend the induction were not permitted to attend any of the NZDF courses. The aim of the induction was to provide a hard, challenging, relentless programme that enforced the basic requirements and expectations of all services students at school, in the military, their community, hapu and iwi.
Charlie Class had spent three weeks preparing for what they would encounter at Waiouru, and were ready, Mr Andrews said.
"Get out! Get your bags and form up in a line!" was yelled at them within seconds of opening the van door.
"From there it was constant pressure. The students were instantly taken out of their comfort zones, and were expected to respond to all commands instantly and to the letter.
This 'shock and capture' method is used to instil a mindset of realism and urgency.
"They then had a bag search, and all cellphones, sugar and other items that were not essential were removed and placed in a safe area. No sugar, cellphones, internet or social media for two long weeks.
"The pressure was constant, unforgiving and controlled. These NZDF instructors are professionals, and do this job because they are passionate about our youth."
Charlie Class was part of 4 Platoon, alongside students from the Waitakere College Services Academy, their daily routine beginning reveille at 5am, breakfast at 6am, the day's activities beginning at 8am and bed at 10.30pm.
"The programme was challenging and engaging, the Charlie Class crew attending all classes with enthusiasm and pride," Mr Andrews added, from learning how to iron clothes and polish boots to navigating a muddy confidence course, a high ropes course and an army fitness test, all under the watchful eye of the directors and NZDF staff.
If required standards were not met the team would be given a "motivational" physical activity.
"So much happens throughout the two weeks that it is hard to describe," Mr Andrews said.
"What I can say is that the induction course is not your average camp; no beaches, barbecues, rest or time off. Charlie Class received 336 hours of constant military training, life skills and learning that they would not have had anywhere else.
"They have worked towards 20-plus credits in NCEA Level 2 or 3, and have been exposed to a training environment that is not as prominent in the Far North as it used to be. There is no doubt in my mind that this type of training creates confident young leaders for our community.
"At the beginning of the year I had 20 students who were unsure of their decision to join the academy. Now I have 20 strong, confident, capable young leaders ready who are for the world.
"While in Waiouru the Mana Toa crew got to talk to Kyla Smith, Jenny Crene, Shelby Callaghan and Colin Murray, all former Kaitaia College/Mana Toa students who are currently serving in the NZDF."