In a first of a weekly series profiling our local schools, Bay of Plenty Times reporter Zoe Hunter takes a look at Mount Maunganui College's values, achievements and community involvement.
The students line up at the edge of the water with their toes digging into the sand desperately trying to find warmth. It is usually the middle of winter and they are shivering.
It is a quick succession from the sand to the surf and back again, but it is all for a good cause.
Mount Maunganui College students take part in the polar plunge every year to raise funds for the Leukaemia Foundation in memory of former students Jed Roberts and Harrison Mundy, whose father still teaches at the college.
Jed died in 2011 following a 19-month battle with leukaemia, while 11-year-old Harrison Mundy lost his battle to cancer on February 16, 2014.
Principal Russell Gordon said the polar plunge was one of the special annual student-organised events which set the school apart.
"Whenever our teens do something and it is for someone else, that is pretty special," he said.
The outgoing principal was reflecting on the year so far as he was set to bow out from the school in December.
Mr Gordon said the school's ultimate goal was to produce well-rounded students. "We value academics and the character of the students and their well-being," he said.
"School is about making sure we are teaching our students to be the best in whatever endeavour they choose and be prepared for the world."
The school's strategic focus was to empower all learners to be confident, connected and to succeed with integrity, form respectful relationships that were responsive to the needs of all and grow active learners who positively contributed to society.
Its values included manaaki - respect, generosity and care for self and others; aroha - love, compassion and empathy for others; ngakau tapatahi - integrity, goodwill, and fairness towards others; and ako - connected and shared learning for all.
Mr Gordon said Mount Maunganui College was strong in academics, sports and performing arts with a spotlight on Sheilah Winn Shakespeare.
"It is second to none," he said. "The fact that teens emerge themselves in Shakespearean language and interpret it to a modern audience is pretty special."
He said the performing arts, sports and academic awards were a highlight of each school year.
"What I like is as many students as possible get to share a little bit of who they are through these various mediums. That is really important."
Mr Gordon said he had enjoyed watching the students grow from junior prizegiving to senior graduation.
"For me, I love all of our prizegivings but senior graduation is the pinnacle because we get to see the students we have had the privilege of sharing their experience with ready to face the world."
The latest Education Review Office Report noted the college as having strong links to iwi and the local community.
Mr Gordon said students were offered learning opportunities where they could learn about their local iwi.
"The goal is to ensure each student understands where they come from, who they are and where they are going."
ERO REPORT - June 27, 2016:
Mount Maunganui College has strong links to iwi and the local community. Students are confident, have a strong sense of belonging and enjoy success in a learning environment that is safe and inclusive. Student achievement has consistently improved over recent years and their achievements are recognised and celebrated. Relationships among students, teachers and whānau are positive and respectful.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL:
Location: Mount Maunganui
Principal: Russell Gordon
Ministry of Education profile number: 118
School type: Secondary (Years 9 to 13)
School roll: 1396
Number of international students: 61
Gender composition: Boys 47%, Girls 53%
Ethnic composition: Pakeha 64%, Maori 29%, Pacific 2%, Asian 4%, Other1%
Together as learners, we are inspired to grow - "Ma te rourou, ma tiku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi"
What do you love most about your school?
"Mount Maunganui College has provided me with a well balanced, unique education taught by truly inspiring teachers. I'm grateful for my time here and believe it has prepared me well for my future endeavours. "
Julia Kayes, head girl
"I love Mount Maunganui College because it provides everyone with an opportunity to learn in a safe, friendly and inclusive environment. We have such a mix of people and cultures at this school and it's awesome to be surrounded by such diversity and all be striving to be our best."
George Haswell, head boy
"I love the encouragement that we get from our teachers. We are always inspired to work harder and to become the best versions of ourselves."
Te Maringi Marsh, kaupapa Maori leader
Mount Maunganui College has provided an education that has been formative in my personal development encouraging academic, sporting and community-related involvement. I am thankful for this as it has prepared me well for my future.
Mack Petrie, community leader