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Teamwork... Rangiora High School students Caitlin Rhodes, aged 14, left, and her sister, Georgia Rhodes, aged 17, with Kay and Philip Worthington the owners of Woolstone Park Lowline Stud in Fernside. File photo

Phil and Kay Worthington are humbled and surprised at being awarded a Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero medal.

The Fernside farming couple, who own Woolstone Park Lowline Stud, say they are overwhelmed at how much attention their work with Rangiora High School students is getting, particularly when they find it so rewarding and beneficial to themselves.

Kiwibank Local Hero awards recognise those whose selflessness and determination has made a difference in the community.

Phil and Kay host students at an after-school programme, in conjunction with the rural studies department of the school, where students work with Lowline cattle, learning to respect the animals, the skills to care for them and to train them to lead quietly alongside them.

The students then get the chance to experience showing, with the animals being taken to local shows before heading to Christchurch for the New Zealand Agricultural Show. These experiences have led to many taking up careers in the rural sector on stud farms, dairy farms or in rural-based industries.

“We are really opening a door which might lead down a rural path,” Kay says.

But it is not just the students who benefit, says Phil, who started the programme in 2009 after frequent trips to Australia where youth programmes, such as cattles showing, are run. The couple have also hosted successful young handlers from Australia, who have come to New Zealand as assistant judges at the Christchurch show.

“We benefit because with all the help we get, our breed and stud gets more animals in the show ring, which is our shop window. We get more coverage by having assistance,” says Phil, who is on the Lowline Association Council based out of Australia.

Phil and Kay say the students become their extended family, and they take pleasure in seeing mums, dads and grandparents watching as their young people parade their cattle.