James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Mighty Joe urges students to reach high

Joseph Dorsett-Jeffreys (left) fights for the ball with Matrix Turner, 11, at Tarawera High School in Kawerau. Photo / Alan Gibson
Joseph Dorsett-Jeffreys (left) fights for the ball with Matrix Turner, 11, at Tarawera High School in Kawerau. Photo / Alan Gibson

At 2.2m, Bronx native "Mighty Joe" Dorsett-Jeffreys often gets the jump on his opponents in the New York streetball circuit.

But the kids from Kawerau's Tarawera High School may have beaten him to the ball with his message about the importance of education as droves of students enrol at the new school.

Mr Dorsett-Jeffreys, whose Team 914 side are champions on the New York City streetball circuit, is in New Zealand with two of his buddies, Aaron Williams and David Seagers, courtesy of the There's a Better Way organisation, which uses basketball as a platform for empowerment in communities.

Team 914 stressed the importance of learning, staying out of gangs and away from drugs and alcohol.

"My coach at school said 'you'll never be nothing' but that pissed me off and made me want to work harder, so I had a dream and worked hard towards it," said Mr Dorsett-Jeffreys.

"You have to work at it. You may think you're cool smoking cigarettes or doing drugs when your friends are studying and then hey, they're graduating and you're still in the eighth grade and dumb."

The message already seems to be getting through at Tarawera High School, which has replaced Kawerau Intermediate and Kawerau College, the two merged as result of a Ministry of Education directive.

Principal Helen Tuhoro said the two former schools had a combined roll of slightly less than 400 and the new school was expecting about 420 pupils by the end of the year. But 10 days into the first term the roll is now edging close to 500 students.

"We have already hit 480 students and we are still getting enrolments daily," said Ms Tuhoro.

The school and its students received a boost last year when it secured sponsorship from around Kawerau and New Zealand to provide free uniforms and stationery for all of its children.

- NZ Herald

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