Pupils push their limits in scheme

Hard work pays off . . . Graduating the Cactus programme are Longford Intermediate School pupils, joined by (back from left) Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley, of Gore, school teaching assistant Cameron Young, Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour liaison Dana Turnbull and school teacher Nicola Millar. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Taking a physical competency test designed for police officers is among the challenges pupils faced in a programme which has helped them see their potential.

A graduation ceremony was held on Wednesday night last week to acknowledge the 19 Longford Intermediate School pupils who completed the Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit Support (Cactus) programme.

Teacher Nicola Millar, who helped lead the 10›week programme, said it was a modified form of defence forces training targeted at youth.

‘‘This programme is aimed to build resilience, self›esteem, teamwork, role modelling and health and fitness empowerment. [It] is designed to extend a young person’s mind, physical capability and belief in themselves through a range of experiences and activities.’’

Those activities included the police physical competency test, abseiling and high ropes at Camp Columba, the Bronco fitness test, a mud run and hiking, she said.

‘‘We’ve seen some really positive changes in our children’s behaviour and how they approach challenges and different situations.’’

Pupil Livai Porima (12) said he had learned to respect people in the community and the school. ‘‘Cactus helped me to change the way I look at things and the way I treat people.’’ Bella Elers (11) said the programme had let her do new things.

‘‘I had never abseiled or done the high ropes course before. I had never run on the cross› country track. I felt safe doing these new things because I had people doing them with me — I had a team.’’

Ms Millar said among those who supported the programme were youth workers from Hokonui Huanui, Dana Turnbull from Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour and Shane Mulqueen from the Air Training Corps.

‘‘It’s been great to bring different organisations together with the same goal: to support children from our community to be the best they can be.’’

The programme was funded by the New Zealand Police.

Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley, of Gore, said the Cactus programme allowed the police to build positive relationships with young people and their families.

‘‘It has been run in Invercargill on several occasions but this year we had the opportunity to pilot the programme in Eastern Southland.

‘‘Although these programmes are usually run with teenagers, we locally decided that we should go younger to an intermediate age.’’

There had been excellent feedback from the pupils, teachers and family, she said.

‘‘This is an important local initiative and hopefully we can see a similar programme continue in Eastern Southland.’’