Students sharpen up in Cactus camp

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013
Jaylee Haddon and Roimata Matete
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ

BRING IT ON: Jaylee Haddon and Roimata Matete, both 14, before taking part in the Cactus training programme. The girls were taking part because they want to increase their fitness for the Hautonga competition later this year.

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Fitness was the motivation for pupils at Invercargill's Te Wharekura O Arowhenua school yesterday morning, on the first day of a military-style boot camp.

It is the second year the Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support (Cactus) programme has been held at the school.

Organised and partly funded by the police for young people, it aims to educate them on fitness, teamwork and social issues.

During the next eight weeks, pupils will also be given motivational talks and guidance on how to deal with problems such as cyber bullying.

Pupils, ranging from year 9 to year 13, were picked up from home at 5.30am to start the morning drill and physical education. After training the children were provided with breakfast at the school.

Organiser and senior teacher Gary Davis said the first session of the eight-week programme was tough but as the pupils got fitter they would enjoy it more.

The programme was beneficial to the pupils because it taught them about discipline and goal setting, he said.

Invercargill Licensing Trust funding meant no young person was excluded for financial reasons, and the funding provided each of the 26 pupils participating with a pair of gym shoes, shorts and T-shirts.

Mr Davis said one of the most important aspects of the programme was for pupils to build a good relationship with police.

"It removes negative perceptions and builds a rapport on both sides," Mr Davis said.

Invercargill police iwi liaison officer and programme facilitator Constable Simon Kairau said the pupils were at a vulnerable age and it was a good time to help them change their perspectives.

He said the police aimed to be positive role models so the pupils felt comfortable approaching them.

"We want to guide pupils to open their minds . . . and if the time ever comes for them to choose between right and wrong they have the tools to decide."

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