"I wanted to bring our school values in, and I wanted it to be original."

This was St John's College student Jake Dunn's vision for their entry in the Lions Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme.

And original it is.

It is the first time the Hastings catholic secondary school has entered, and their business model incorporates youth inmates from Hawke's Bay Regional Prison.

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Principal Adviser of Rehabilitation and Learning, Tony Denton, says it's a unique opportunity. "They would not normally have had this opportunity until this school came knocking on our door... so we certainly welcomed it for our boys to take part in it."

The inmates in question are 16 to 19-year-olds who are serving either 6-12 month, or life sentences.

It was when Jake was researching for an internal assessment that he had the brainwave.

"I came across some appalling statistics that 80 per cent of young offenders reoffend. So I thought what better way to enter into the enterprise project than to have a product which lowers that statistic and brings the values from our school into it."

The Young Enterprise Scheme requires students to form real businesses and sell real products and services to the market.

The College's entry is 'Just Boards' - wooden platters produced under the name Bruthas Ltd.

For the last six months the students have been regularly visiting their business partners behind bars - an experience in itself.

"It's something I've never felt before," Jake says. "After the powhiri, it lifted all tensions and worries and it felt like we were just best friends talking to each other and the business venture.

Together they created recycled rimu platters which interlock to symbolise a waka - underpinning Māori culture.

They're packaged in recycled coffee sacks.

"If you've that edge on your products it's another point of difference for your products," Jake says. He already has a clear path marked out for his future.

"I want to do a conjoined degree in a Bachelor of Commerce and Law and start my own business in the future."

But, not everyone his age is so ambitious.

Principal Corrections Officer, Lawrence Ereatara says many of their rangatahi have "grown up in the system" being exposed to drugs, alcohol, violence and the gang culture.

"A lot of them have mental health issues as well... for them it was being able to see the other side, so to see through the eyes of our St John's students with regards to what else is out there in the community, the meeting of two minds but from two different cultures."

Three and a half thousand students and nearly 1000 companies are involved in this year's scheme.

Bruthas Ltd is hoping the popularity of their $150 product will put them in good stead to take a top placing.

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