The door will soon be open for Northland and Auckland high school students with disabilities to be trail-blazers in an exchange scheme designed especially to suit them.
Achieve 2B founder Julia Hartshorne said the organisation has the funds in place for the regional and international pilot in the scheme, which will enable disabled students to have similar exchange opportunities to the type non-disabled students have taken part in for decades.
The first regional exchange will be between students from three Auckland schools and Tikipunga, Whangarei Boys' and Whangarei Girls' High Schools in term one next year.
That will be followed with the international pilot in term two, in which a Northland or Auckland student and one from Melbourne will experience their counterpart's home and school life for a term.
The Achieve 2B charitable trust is working in partnership with the Australian organisation, Interchange-Outer East, which also creates opportunities for young people with disabilities, Ms Hartshorne said.
Applications for the regional exchange open on September 5, and for the international pilot on October 25. In the meantime, Achieve 2B is holding student workshops with the schools taking part, and a parent information evening on Thursday August 18, at Northable, 40 John St, Whangarei, from 7pm-8.30pm.
Ms Hartshorne started the ball rolling for Achieve 2B (or A2B) in 2014, gathering together a strong board for the charitable trust formed to enable mild to moderately disabled students from 14 to 21 "to be, rather than not be".
"Host families will have to meet rigorous selection criteria. They'll receive a high standard of vigilance around safety, quality and suitability for a particular student or disability," Ms Hartshorne said at the time.
"We'll be looking at the individual student and saying 'What are the gaps, what do we need to put in place to make this the ideal experience?'
"What disability-related support do they and the host family need and is that accessible in that community?"
As a 16-year-old with mild cerebral palsy, Ms Hartshorne was the first disabled New Zealand student to be accepted for an AFS student exchange, after being turned down twice.