By Mick Jensen
It’s the end of an era for Ashburton Salvation Army’s employment and education centre, with the doors to close permanently tomorrow.
The Salvation Army is shutting all of its 21 centres across the country, which collectively employ 88 staff and cater for hundreds of students.
The organisation has been funding education and employment services from reserves over the last five years, but is unable to sustain the costs involved with running them.
The Ashburton centre has offered life skills and career option advice, NCEA level 1 and 2 qualifications and New Zealand certificates in tourism and computing to local youth for around 15 years.
Current centre manager and tutor Heather Daly, who voiced her concerns about the closure and its impact on students when the closure announcement was made in early March, said it was a sad day and the end of an era.
She said her role not only delivered education, but also pastoral care, which included listening and helping students and recognising them as individuals.
Mrs Daly said the centre had helped many graduates make their way into jobs and careers over the years.
Some were builders, painters and farm managers, while others found work in factories or went on to further training in areas such as nursing and horticulture.
She said the current batch of students had been able to complete their course and those under 16 would transfer to other providers, where possible.
One successful graduate of the Ashburton centre is Brooke Chambers, who gained NCEA Level 1 & 2 and driving licence credits between 2012 and 2014.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for Heather and what the centre was able to offer me at a time when I needed help.
“School isn’t for everybody and it wasn’t for me because I was a bit of an outcast.
“The Salvation Army centre provided me with a comfortable, supportive environment and I will always be grateful for that.”
For the last four years, Brooke Chambers has worked for Ag Staff and is shortly embarking on a horticulture correspondence course.
Current students and past graduates, like Brooke, came together at the centre on Tuesday to share stories and experiences and also to sign a thank you card.