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Hard workers: Wakatipu High students Primrose Johnson and Ben McAuliffe rip out the weeds in the Wakatipu Playcentre strawberry patch alongside three-year-old Ada Wedd

By MATTHEW MCKEW

Nothing’s normal this year and even the annual Year 10 Work Day’s been through a change, but perhaps for the better, the organiser says.

For well over 50 years, Wakatipu High students in Queenstown have gone on ‘‘an iconic rite of passage’’ to Branches Station for a 12-day camp.

Running almost a fortnight of abseiling, tramping and kayaking comes with  a price tag — to help keep it affordable, the Branches Charitable Trust was established in 2009.

Trustee Benny Neilson’s since spent time organising for students to go out on work placements and ‘‘earn’’ their trip.

But she says the economic impacts of Covid-19 have meant they needed a rethink this year.

‘‘Being hit by Covid it has made it quite difficult for businesses that have supported us in the past, so we have taken a different approach of asking for sponsors.’’

She says construction firms, for example, who are still doing well have been keen to lend support, but due to health and safety can’t have people on their sites.

So, they’ve agreed to dip their hands in their pockets in return for students volunteering in the community.

Teens will therefore be heading off to support Baskets of Blessing, Wakatipu Reforestation Trust, the Sally Army and more.

Two Wakatipu High students, Primrose Johnson, 15, and Ben McAuliffe, 14, will be weeding, cleaning and planting at Wakatipu Playcentre.

Ben says while he’s helped clean around the house, he hasn’t done anything like this before.

‘‘They [the pre-schoolers] are pretty fun and it’s nice to be here.’’

Neilson says the trust’s been ‘‘overwhelmed’’ with sponsorship offers.

That support means they’ll be looking to stick to the new way of doing things again next year.

‘‘It’s probably an insight the students haven’t had before and may lead to an urge or a passion in that area — and lead to long-term volunteering commitments.’’

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz