When Buck Shelford mentions something, you should probably pay close attention to it.

Peter Kaua did just that when his mate, the former All Blacks enforcer Shelford, asked him if he knew about the military services academy and whether he would like to set one up.

The Whanganui City College principal was keen and the academy was set up at the Ingestre St school in 2010.

"It's something that we needed. When I heard the kaupapa behind it, the reasons for having it, I jumped on board," Kaua says.

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"There were some rogues in there when it started. There were some kids that I was ready to turf. Since then, we've had a 98 per cent strike rate at NCEA level 2."

On Monday a mixture of year 11, 12 and 13 students departed from Whanganui City College bound for Waiouru where they will take part in an induction at the military camp.

The 13 students will join up with 11 other academies and they will participate in adventure-based learning with no communication to the outside world for 12 days.

Under the guidance of military academy director Pat Cooney, the students will attempt to gain self-discipline, self-respect and valuable life skills.

"They're going to get thrown in the deep end and if they can cut it, there's a huge march out at the end on March 22nd," Kaua says.

"I've been 10 or 11 times and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Their parents are there just crying."

Only schools below decile three can have a military services academy and students can put their hands up to participate or are nominated to do it for behavioural reasons.

All parents correspond with Cooney on how their sons and daughters are progressing and some have gone on to have careers in the defence force and emergency services.

Kaua said the academy has lifted the profile of Whanganui City College, where he has been the principal for 12 years.

"A lot of people think our school deserves a military camp because it's decile 2, but that's wrong. It's another pathway for our kids," Kaua says.

"I get annoyed that people think it's a bootcamp. It's not, it's open to other Whanganui schools and we've had quite a few students come over.

"There've been some kids whose lives have changed because of it and families too."