At the edge of the city and the margins of society, a school and its students are fighting back.

Papakura High School has a falling roll, and as far as results go, it's among the worst schools in the country.

The buildings are under-maintained and morale is low. Staff and students fear closure. Its community faces huge challenges: homelessness, low incomes, limited education and a high crime rate.‚Äč

Many families with money send their children to "better" schools on the other side of the railway tracks.

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But there is hope.

Some of the students are stars, dedicated to building a future for themselves and inspiring others.

A charismatic new headmaster has big plans for turning things around.

Under The Bridge is the story of a year inside their world, the Herald's first foray into long-form documentary feature making.

A team of journalists spent 12 months following three young people and their principal to discover what life is really like at a struggling school and what the students need to succeed.

"The most important thing for the kids here is that there are teachers who get up every day and give them a sense of hope," principal John Rohs says.

This is Part 1 of the three-part multimedia series. Click here to see Part 2.