Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Girls find strength in event (+video)

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A gruelling eight-week programme has left Rotorua Girls' High School students exhausted but empowered after completing the challenge's Longest Day.

Cactus (Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support) is a programme of physical training developed from the Armed Forces programme.

This is the second year Rotorua Police have run Cactus for the high school. There were 24 students who took part in the eight-week programme, culminating in the Longest Day event on Saturday.

Year 12 student Pareunuora Pene, 16, said the programme was the hardest thing she had ever tackled.

"Cactus pushed our minds and bodies to the absolute limit. There were moments during the last day that our bodies wanted to give up but we kept pushing through. There were a lot of tough challenges but it was a really great experience."

Pareunuora said the highlight for her was pulling the fire truck.

"Having all our supporters there cheering us on helped encourage us to keep going and pull that truck to the end. It was so rewarding to have achieved that."

She said 'mind over matter' was the main message she took away from the programme.

"You learn a lot of lessons that will help you later in life. It's important to learn how to overcome challenges set before you and Cactus teaches you just that."

Rotorua Girls' High School principal Ally Gibbons said the programme had been great.

"It is a fantastic programme. It is well organised and the girls respond positively to it."

She said Cactus teaches the students a lot of about the importance of teamwork, leadership, resilience and discipline.

"We see the huge benefit of having the police work alongside us in such a positive programme."

Head girl Jordyn Tereu was involved in Cactus last year and enjoyed it so much she took part again this year as a mentor.

"I'm doing it for the girls. It has been really cool seeing them endure the challenges I faced last year and seeing them develop into stronger young women."

Cactus has been running in Rotorua since 2011. The programme brings together police, schools, businesses, community associations and local trusts to help youth achieve something that will change their lives.

Longest Day schedule:

* 6am: Run from Rotorua Girls' High School to Tree Trust and Waipa carpark. Continue to top of Trigg Ave then back down Nursery Hill to Redwoods Information Centre.

* 9am: Fire training exercise with the New Zealand Fire Service - confinement and smoke room, hose running exercise, use of fire equipment.

* 10.45am: Team building exercises.

* 12.30pm: Carry three wood poles along Te Ngae Rd to Sudima Hotel. Run past the Polynesian Spa out on to Hinemoa St to the police station.

* 1.30pm: 800m Truck pull from Fenton's Bar, Fenton/Amohau St finishing at the Village Green.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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