On a mission ... Royal New Zealand Army southern youth development unit commanding officer Craig Thornley presents two awards to Preston Repia-King. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Preston Repia-King gained much more than two awards at Blue Light’s Life Skills camp.

Last month, Preston took part in the camp at Christchurch’s Burnham Military and received overall excellence and peers’ choice awards.

But that was not all the Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil left with.

“I came out of the course with a better mindset,” Preston said.

Throughout the programme, participants did marching, drills, and activities such as tree climbing and biking.

He loved getting up in the early hours of the morning and starting the day by doing something active.

Preston felt encouraged by the officers guiding the course, who shared their stories and backgrounds, and the choices they made to avoid a “dark” path and “come out on top”, he said.

“I was inspired by how strong people can be.”

One officer had a “harsh life” while growing up and spoke of how things could get better.

“It helped me find a place where I could focus on being myself,” the 16-year-old said.

Participants spent four days at the camp, and on the final day Preston received his awards.

Just being himself and supporting others, he was “amazed and surprised” to get them.

Going into the programme, he was nervous to meet new peopleĀ  – but the nerves soon faded away.

“We all got on pretty well.”

When the programme came to an end, Preston did not want to leave – but he came away with a strengthened sense of what he aspired to in life.

Having wanted to join the military since he was 4, Preston aimed to finish NCEA Levels 1 and 2, so he could do just that.