Twenty-four-year-old Christian Curtis is studying for a New Zealand Diploma in Sport, Recreation, and Exercise (Community Sport and Recreation) at Unitec. Christian started the diploma through the ‘earn while you learn’ partnership that Unitec has with Auckland Council, the largest active recreation and exercise employer in Auckland. He now works full-time as a Healthy Active Learning Community Connector for Sport Waitākere while he is completing his diploma.
Glen Eden-born and raised Christian was a champion high jumper and rugby league player until a knee injury forced him to quit competitive sport when he was 18 years old. He decided the best way to keep up his love and involvement with physical activity was through a career in sport and recreation, so he enrolled part-time in a couple of courses in the New Zealand Diploma in Sport, Recreation and Exercise (Community Sport and Recreation) two years ago, while he was working at the West Wave Leisure Centre in Henderson.
The diploma is a contemporary and career-focused programme that provides a mix of practical sessions, classroom-based activities, and industry learning with part and full-time options to study.
The programme also offers an employment partnership with Auckland Council where students can learn and work in the sector at the same time. There are additional work-based placements throughout the programme and many personal and professional development opportunities. Christian’s role with Sport Waitākere involves implementing the Government’s Healthy Active Learning initiative in the West which aims to improve the wellbeing of tamariki through healthy eating and drinking and quality physical activity. He works with health providers, clubs, local community champions and schools in West Auckland; connecting young people and their whānau with sport and recreation organisations in the region.
The ‘earn and learn’ initiative offered by the Diploma programme appealed to Christian – not only does he have access to hands-on practical employment and workplace experience in the sport and recreation sector while he studies, but he can also pay the bills at the same time.
In work at West Wave and Sport Waitākere, Christian has managed a number of charity events for the West Auckland Community including: Trust Teina, Camp Quality, Youthline and Surf Life Saving New Zealand, with his lecturers at Unitec providing experienced guidance and support.
He says study has also given him a greater sense of vision and purpose. He suffered mental health issues when his knee injury forced him to give up sport six years ago, and as a result, he started up the Good Vibes Only support group as a way of sharing experiences and redefining his negative past.
“Applying myself to something I love through study completely changed me as a person. I’m learning about the structure of sport and recreation on a Friday, and then on Monday I’m putting what I’ve learnt into practice.
“I’m getting the best of both worlds, and I love it.”