Four StandTall students will be fighting fit for Ports of Auckland Round the Bays this year.
They punched and kicked their way through a lesson at the Boxing Alley in Parnell on February 4 as part of their training for the 8.4km run on March 10.
None of the students have done Ports of Auckland Round the Bays before.
Jasmine Teleiai, 13, says the chance to participate is an example of how StandTall has broadened her horizons.
"It's so awesome. It just shows you all the things you can actually do in life."
StandTall is aimed at the "good kids" in low decile schools.
It is the brainchild of English-born Carl Sunderland who saw a lack of support for hard-working students during his time teaching in low decile Auckland schools.
"The good ones seem to get missed and go through the whole system without being seen sometimes."
Mr Sunderland founded StandTall in 2009 and was awarded a Kiwibank Local Hero award for the initiative in December 2012.
He says children living in low socio-economic areas often have limited career opportunities which can mean a lack of confidence, choices and focus.
"Some of these kids come from bad influences or negative environments. To be able to ignore that and rise above it as a 12 or 13 year-old shows huge responsibility."
There are currently 140 students from seven South Auckland schools in the programme. Five of the students who made dux at those seven schools were part of StandTall in 2012.
Mr Sunderland says the programme helps students who "never saw life beyond the corner dairy" develop into tomorrow's leaders.
But it won't be handed to them on a plate.
"They need to really want it.
"The whole aim is for them to go to high school with a clear purpose in life, not just because they have to. Life's hard work, so you have to put the effort in, but you've got to have fun too."
StandTall students do work experience in their chosen fields and attend novelties such as All Blacks training and Great Barrier Island leadership camps.
A support network of families, schools and businesses help give students these career opportunities.
Many pupils are on a waiting list for the programme.
The Choice Foundation, which delivers StandTall, has been chosen as an official charity of the 2013 Ports of Auckland Round the Bays.
The foundation is hoping to expand to East and West Auckland schools and double the number of students benefiting from StandTall in the next year.
StandTall ambassador, television presenter and model Jo Holley says it is amazing to see the development of students during their time with StandTall.
"Some of the kids start off with no hope and no dream and they have matured so much. They're so on to it," she says.
She has been working with Manurewa student Katherine Wijohn and her family to help the 12-year-old achieve her dream of becoming a model.
Ports of Auckland Round the Bays is co-owned by the Auckland Joggers Club and Fairfax Media, owner of the East & Bays Courier and its parent company Suburban Newspapers.
Go to roundthebays.co.nz to register and for more information.
- East And Bays Courier
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