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By YVONNE O’HARA

By taking part in a community volunteer service programme at Mt Aspiring College, pupils are pushed out of their comfort zone, programme facilitator Liz Breslin says.

Ms Breslin co-ordinates the college’s Students in the Community programme, which is the only one of its type in the country.

Initially introduced in 1995, all year 13 pupils are required to spend at least 20 hours in a community volunteer role.

She said the pupils could select their own placements, which could range from coaching sports teams, to baking, working with primary school or preschool pupils, volunteering at the Upper Clutha A&P Show or the Winter Games, planting natives at the Hawea Wave, helping the Salvation Army or teaching senior people how to operate computers.

“Some students want to push themselves out of their confidence zone and they gain some real benefits,” Ms Breslin said.

“It is about building relationships and understanding each other’s world a bit more.

The pupils decided what skills they were going to use and what they wanted to do in the community.

“What it does is help people appreciate each other.”

She encouraged pupils to consider placements unrelated to their chosen career path or work experience, to give them a wider view of the world.

Ms Breslin talked to a former pupil who was in the programme three or four years ago.

He said before he was involved with it, he struggled with shyness and had difficulty talking to people.

“By helping seniors with technology, it made him realise he could talk to people.”

The programme is supported by the school and the Lotteries Commission.