As a former member of the Stratford St John Cadets, Donna Millar says the programme teaches important life skills.

Donna has been involved with the cadets for over 30 years and she says it is a great group to be a part of.

"I loved being a cadet. During my time I learnt a lot of valuable life skills that I still use to this day and I think it's important that young people are given the opportunity to learn these skills as well."

The cadets work towards gaining badges in four different levels. The levels are Penguins (six to eight), Juniors (eight to 10), Intermediate (10-13) and Seniors (13-18).

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The penguins work towards nine different badges ranging from first aid, hobbies, communication and caring. Once they achieve the nine badges, they get the Super Penguin award.

Junior cadets work towards their green level badges and Intermediate work towards blue level badges.

From 13 and over, the cadets can work towards the Grand Prior badge, the highest award available through St John cadets.

To achieve the Grand Prior award cadets must obtain 12 Gold level proficiency badges from a selection of 29, six of which are compulsory.

They are First Aid, Caregivers, Communications, St John, Community Awareness and Drill. They must also complete 100 hours community service.

Donna achieved the Grand Prior award.

After completing the cadet course, Donna helped out with the cadets and took over leadership of the Penguins. Four leaders help with the programmes.

"Last year I took over the St John cadets after the manager left."

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She enjoys seeing the cadets do well in the programme.

"It is really cool to see the cadets get the Super Penguin and the Gold badges."

The cadets also compete.

"It is a lot of hands-on work. They complete first aid scenarios where they have to assess the situation and then treat 'patients'."

The cadets also fundraise to go away to camps where they learn different skills.

"Last year a group went to a caregivers' camp where they learnt how to care for someone by giving them medicine, feeding them and changing beds."

A group also attended a drill camp where they learned to march.

"The camps are great life experience. The skills they learn help a lot later in life."

■ The Stratford St John cadets meet at the St John Hall from 6.30pm-8.30pm every Tuesday during the school term. $40 per year to become a cadet. For more information, contact Donna Millar on 027 316 4555.