Fourteen secondary school students from throughout Northland (including Te Kura Kupapa o Kaikohe, Kaitaia College, Abundant Life Kaitaia, Taipa Area School and Bay of Islands College) who have completed a three-week Outward Bound course designed for their demographic reunited in Kaikohe last week to celebrate their achievement.

The Kotahitanga contingent (as they were known) had been pushed to their physical and mental limits, Outward Bound CEO Victor Klap said, their programme including sailing, high ropes, rock climbing whilst blindfolded, swimming before sunrise, waka ama, kayaking, tramping, bush skills and solo bush activities.

Some people loved the three-day, two-night solo bush component, Mr Klap said, while others hated it, but all the activities were simply a means of bringing about the changes that the participants experienced.

"These kids may have known one other person from their school, but no one else," he said.

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"Over the course of 21 days they learnt to support each other over all the things that they did. They'll be really tight, and will keep in contact with each other over a long period of time. They all start with trepidation, and in the finish they are sad to leave.

"There is always something different about the kids at the end of the course. They have changed. The course has a lasting impact," he added.

Outward Bound school director Simon Graney said the students had been chosen for their leadership and commitment. Their three weeks had taught them to build courage and resilience, to experience success as a member of a team, identify their own values, develop an appreciation for the natural environment and experience being of service.

For Kamo High School student Jordan Dwight it had been a place of both learning and of healing.

"Before I left I wasn't a very energised or happy person," he said.

"The instructors taught us that anything can be changed by the way you think about it. I'm a much happier, positive person, and the things I used to react to negatively I have now learned how to change and manage my attitude towards.

"Outward Bound was also the place I had a chance to process my mother's passing two years ago. One of my watchmates experienced similar with the death of her father, so we had lots of chats and it was great to relate to her. I've come to grips with it now, and being away, challenging myself at Outward Bound, definitely had an impact on that part of my life. It was a place of healing."