Documentary reveals outside the box idea to get kids into good schools.

When an American man living in New Zealand watched a documentary about Maori and Pacifica youth underachieving in education he came up with a pioneering idea to make a change.

Now the fruits of Terrance Wallace's idea - which has benefited scores of kids in achieving higher education goals - will be the subject of its own documentary.

In 2011 Wallace, a former community worker and Chicago native, set up In Zone - a boarding house in the sought-after Auckland Grammar school zone for Maori and Pacific secondary school students who wanted to attend the college but didn't live in zone.

Often, kids from less privileged communities underachieved in education because of social challenges in their neighbourhoods, rather than from going to poor schools, Wallace said.

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"I saw some of the same challenges amongst African Americans and Hispanics back home and so when I came to New Zealand and saw that [news] story it kind of just ignited something inside of me.

"I started taking Te Reo classes and coming up with ideas that were outside of the box. I didn't know initially that the zoning law was the challenge, but as I dug further I gained knowledge."

The boys' hostel thrived and in 2014 Wallace set up another boarding house on the site for girls wanting to get into Epsom Girls' Grammar.

Over the past five years more than 100 teens have been a part of the initiative.

To get a spot in the hostel the students have to be driven to succeed in education and give back to the communities they come from, Wallace said.

"It's not like your traditional boarding house. We try to give it a family, a whanau environment.

"It's a home so everyone has chores to do."

Curt Manukia was one of In Zone New Zealand's foundation students. He grew up in South Auckland and was 13 when he moved into the boarding hostel.

His parents tried to get him into Auckland Grammar as an out of zone student but were unsuccessful. Then a staff member at the school put them in touch with Wallace.

"I was really intrigued and thought that this opportunity was the best way for me to get the education I wanted," he told the Herald on Sunday.

Before he went to Auckland Grammar Manukia was more interested in playing sport than studying.

But at the school he discovered he loved maths and physics and is now exploring these passions at a deeper level by studying for a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Auckland.

"The support networks were really great in that they helped me to stay focused and just form an idea of what I wanted my future to be like," Manukia said.

"[It helped] just being with other people who were really striving to do well in their careers and had an idea of what they wanted their futures to be like."

Both Manukia's younger siblings benefited from his connection with In Zone. His brother is in Year 11 at Grammar and although he lives at home "is still really interconnected with everything that In Zone has to offer", including going to study sessions at the hostel.

Their sister lives at In Zone Girls and is in Year 12 at Epsom Girls Grammar.

Wallace has appointed a general manager to run the Auckland programme and is returning to Chicago to set up a similar initiative for African American and Hispanic youth.

Film and television director Robyn Paterson approached Wallace about making a documentary about In Zone after seeing media coverage about it.

"When I saw an article about Terrance it connected with me because I saw someone who was trying to build bridges and someone who was doing something and telling kids who have a dream that, 'Yes, you can have that dream, you can be who you want to be'."

Paterson has spent the past 2 years filming the documentary in her spare time.

She and Wallace hope to release the film internationally in 2018 and because it's been almost entirely self-funded until now have set up a Kick Starter campaign to raise $50,000 for the post-production work.