Hawke's Bay All Black Dominic Bird is using his height for another purpose - to help youngsters.

The former Waipukurau resident, who is the tallest New Zealand international rugby player on record, credits the Foundation for Youth Development's Project K for giving him the push he needed as an insecure teenager, toward the towering heights he has achieved.

Now Mr Bird is giving back to the organisation as an ambassador for the Foundation's Project K month-long campaign.

Mr Bird graduated from the 14-month programme, which focuses on increasing self-confidence and belief in Year-10 students, in 2006.

Advertisement

"In the early days, what it did for me as a 14-,15-year-old was really to push me out of my comfort zone. I was cruising at sport and didn't do a lot of school work.

"You've got to learn to be uncomfortable and just deal with it," Mr Bird said.

"Project K helped me get to where I am today, by giving me direction at a young age, an important age and that just boosted me along the way."

The lock said he lacked confidence as a young teenager.

"I'd say I was quite often within myself. In a classroom I was sitting at the back and didn't really feel the need to speak up. That all changed as well with skills they gave us on the different parts of Project K."

The 2.06m tall, 112kg lock will join a more recent Project K graduate, 17-year-old Stacey Beazley from the Waikato.

Stacey said before Project K he had no confidence and low self-esteem.

"Three years down the track I am a completely different person because I have found confidence within myself.

"Life is now amazing and I love going to school. Project K has enabled me to set my future goals and back myself."

Project K is for Year 10 students and delivered in three planned and fully integrated stages: wilderness adventure; community challenge; mentoring with a trained adult mentor.

Foundation for Youth Development chief executive Marion Short said research had proven the programme positively changed lives.

"Students that have been through the programme report back increased self-belief and confidence. It has also been proven to significantly improve academic performance," she said.

As part of Project K Awareness Month the foundation is using the opportunity to look for new mentors and to expand its alumni.