Village Sports Academy (VSA) offers a unique sports course. Not only is it giving young people formal qualifications so they can get jobs and pursue careers, it’s transforming their lives, boosting their self-esteem and teaching life skills to help them succeed.

Established by former All Blacks Michael Jones and Vaaiga Tuigamala, VSA is designed to maximise young people’s potential by using their interest in sport and athletic skill as a hook into education and employment.

Since August 2009, VSA has trained 274 students, all of whom left school with no, or very few, qualifications.  In December 2010, 113 young people graduated and will go on to further education or get work.

Famous rugby player Eroni Clarke mentors the students. He says: “We teach them that it’s not just about becoming fitter, faster, stronger athletes – it’s about becoming good people. We focus on their beliefs, values and identity.”

Vavakiola Fosite, 20, has always had a passion for volleyball and dreamed of being a PE teacher, but finished school without the necessary qualifications.

“I got into a group that wasn’t going anywhere. VSA has taught me how to learn. It’s been hard work, but I’ve learnt so much and now I will graduate and I’m applying for teachers college.”

“Everyone on the course wants to be someone. If you are falling behind there’s always someone to push you. I’ve learnt about leadership, sports psychology and anatomy.  VSA has given me the pathway to further education. I want to go to Tonga and teach PE – that way I can give something back.”

Nuka Gemmell, 20, was on the benefit when WINZ told him about VSA. The boxer and father-of-two credits VSA for challenging him to succeed.

“I left boxing, went off the rails and started drinking. What got me back on track? Being here, seeing other people reaching their goals, motivating each other.  I feel like I am getting somewhere.”

“Now I’m back on the boxing scene and I’m training hard for the 2012 Olympics. If I stick to training there’s no doubt I’ll get there.  I’m getting the best of both worlds because I’m getting an education too.”

Michael Jones is committed to seeing the students succeed: “This course costs the students nothing. All we expect is their time and a huge commitment.  We remove the barriers so they can learn, and we make sure they are surrounded by good role models.”

The Tindall Foundation supports employment initiatives for those in greatest need.  The Foundation is funding the Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust – a partnership between three Pasifika organisations, including VSA, supported by Maori tertiary provider Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

For further information contact:

Alison Leauanae, Co-ordinator, Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust