On the field the Bay of Plenty Steamers have proven themselves this year, going all the way to this Saturday's Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal against Otago at Tauranga Domain.

But off the field, they have made an even greater impact in the community, with some initiatives undertaken that will last far longer than when the final whistle is blown to end this rugby season.

One success story has been the partnership between Bay of Plenty Rugby and Key Skills Recruitment to deliver an Education Ambassadors Programme by Bay of Plenty Steamers players in schools.

Players involved in the programme are Lalakai Foketi (Papamoa High School), Jesse Parete (Te Puke High School), Terrence Hepetema (Tauranga Boys' College), James Lay (Welcome Bay School), Jordan Lay (Gate Pa School), Liam Steele (Maungatapu School), Monty Ioane (Greenpark Primary School) and Solomona Sakalia (Otumoetai College).


Their job as education ambassadors is to support at-risk students with one-on-one student development. The programme, fully supported by the Ministry of Education, is designed to inspire and motivate students to improve their attendance and encourage them to achieve the best of their abilities.

Bay of Plenty Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers said it was great to be able to see the players involved grow as men.

"It has been a key focus that it is not only about growing the players and exposing them to the opportunity to further develop as individuals but provide added value to our community.

"Kids involved are now excited to turn up to school and enjoy being at school, which is a huge positive change we have seen."

Ati Aaifou-Olive, from Key Skills Recruitment, plays a significant role in the pairing of students and players, which has greatly contributed to the success of the programme.

"The Bay of Plenty Steamers players have had to demonstrate a committed work ethic and positive attitude to get where they are. The boys can now share their hard work with these kids, which sends a message to these kids no matter what situation you are in at home, there is always a way to achieve your goals," he said.

"The results we have received from this programme have been overwhelming. One of the students was identified as a bully within the school, and over a short period of time working with Lalakai Foketi, he has had a change of attitude. Not only has his view on bullying changed, but his view of his peers."

Last Saturday before the Bay of Plenty v Waikato match at Tauranga Domain, four of the schools involved in the Education Ambassadors programme, Maungatapu Primary School, Greenpark Primary School, Welcome Bay Primary School and Gate Pa Primary School, entertained the huge crowd with some friendly Rippa Rugby matches.

The Education Ambassadors Programme will kick off again in Term 4 following the conclusion of the Mitre 10 Cup campaign and is set to expand with more players offering to help out.