Big plans: Liger Leadership Academy founders Agnieszka Tynkiewicz-Gile and her husband, Trevor Gile, at Millbrook Resort on Tuesday


A new not-for-profit school, focused on entrepreneurship and leadership, will open in Queenstown next year.

In time the Liger Leadership Academy, which is setting up shop at Five Mile, will help to diversify and strengthen Queenstown’s economy, its founders say.

The academy was unveiled publicly to New Zealand at Millbrook Resort on Tuesday night.

It’s the brainchild of local residents Trevor Gile and his wife, Agnieszka Tynkiewicz-Gile, who opened the pilot academy in Cambodia in 2012.

Gile says they set out to ‘‘reinvent international aid’’ about a decade ago, but in the process realised they needed to reinvent education for the 21st

‘‘There is an urgent global need to do this.

‘‘We created the Liger Academy as a response to focus education in a direction that can help young people today be prepared for a future that’s completely uncertain.

‘‘Our goal is to empower young people to have the mindset and skills to teach themselves what they need to know, when they need to know it, and to apply that ability in any context, with whatever challenges life will bring their way.’’

The academy’s got a particular focus on educating promising youth to help them become socially-conscious, entrepreneurial leaders during the six-year programme.

Results so far have exceeded their expectations, Gile says.

Its first students have just graduated from the six-year programme in Cambodia — Tynkiewicz-Gile says 40% of them of them have received full scholarships to global universities, including Ivy League universities like Princeton, in the US, while others have chosen to launch their own start-ups and one has established their own not-for-profit organisation.


Development director Chris Sullivan says the curriculum’s based on global cutting-edge practices and has a critical focus on STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and maths — with strong background in essential subjects like English and social sciences and a pathway to the arts.

Students focus on creating impact while studying, including working on real-world environmental, social and cultural challenges.

‘‘We are looking to partner with individuals and organisations who share our belief that learning should be real, relevant and engaging.

‘‘It is through working with partners, including other schools, that we think we can contribute to the vibrancy of education options in Queenstown,’’ Sullivan says.

Just as important, Giles says, is the school’s culture, which is defined by ‘‘kindness and consideration, collaboration, competition and understanding of risk and how to manage it’’.

‘‘There’s no stigma for failure and lots and lots of fun.’’

Ahead of opening the Queenstown academy — Immigration New Zealand allowing that’ll happen in the second term of next year — the couple’s launching the Liger Discovery Club, a one-day-a-week programme aimed at Year 7 students, to give them a taste of the Liger methods and get them into the mindset to enable them to become full-time students in the Year 8-13 school.

The academy does a ‘‘cohort’’ intake every second year, targeting increments of eight — their perfect intake size is 48, with ideal capacity being 144 after six years.

Tynkiewicz-Gile says they’re hoping to have two different groups of students starting next year.

Financial constraints are also not a barrier, the couple say.

The private school’s got a not-for-profit status to make sure every dollar going to the school stays there to benefit its kids.

‘‘In particular, we would like to ensure that if a student belongs in the programme then financial considerations won’t stop them, therefore it’s a tuition and scholarship set-up,’’ Gile says.

While they’d initially targeted Australia for their first expansion, after they moved to the resort a couple of years ago ‘‘it all just became obvious’’.

‘‘We love NZ, we’re here, it’s a booming market for secondary education here and this would be the perfect place for our first expansion.

‘‘The timing is perfect.

‘‘I think we all know Queenstown … needs to diversify its economy and that’s not something that just happens overnight, it’s a long extended process involving a lot of people and, to a large degree, education has a role to play there and we hope to be additive to that as time passes.

‘‘I think the Liger Academy is going to fit into that model perfectly.’’