It's a church gathering, but not as you might expect.

Every Tuesday morning at 7am, students from Aquinas College assemble to prepare school lunches for hundreds of children in need across Tauranga.

"Going to school, children can get their NCEA and education," said founder Mikaere Smith. "You can belong to your sports teams and things like that. But the one thing you can contribute back to society, in a positive way, is serving others."

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They call themselves the 'AC Army' and the idea was inspired by a similar 'student-driven' concept which began following the Christchurch earthquakes.

"We've sort of based ourselves on a quote from Mother Teresa which says 'we can't all do great things, but what we can do is small things with great love'."

One of the students, Aileen Harwood has been presented with a Youth Spirit Award for her service to the community. And all while juggling her studies.

"A lot of things are given to me," she said. "I like to give back my time and effort to other people, to help them be able to achieve the things that they want to be able to achieve as well."

The initiative started two years ago, with volunteers making lunches for their own students. Now they distribute over 150 lunches to schools across the city.

This year they are running a Christmas Appeal within the school, collecting gifts and donations to help fill boxes for people in need.

"From here, they will go to another place where Samaritans volunteers will check them off, go through them all. They then get sent off, along with all the others that have been collected," said fellow volunteer Jess Phayer.

The AC Army all agree that in life, supporting those around you is just as important as a good education.

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