Graduating from Dubbo's St Johns College 2019/2020 Step Up program was bittersweet for a group of Year 8 students on Friday.
The program, in its second year, has again helped 20-odd boys become young men and better engage in their studies.
Not even the COVID-19 pandemic and weeks at home diminished the positive impact of the program run by arts coordinator Kirk Watts, teacher's aide David Heywood and PE teacher Kyper Yap.
Zoom was used to stay in touch with the program's participants with individual and group sessions keeping them on track to becoming "good blokes".
On Friday the graduates were happy about their achievements and sad to be making way for a new group of boys, who they will mentor.
The program runs from the middle of Year 7 to the middle of Year 8 but was extended in 2020 because of the lockdown.
"They love the Step Up program," Mr Heywood said before the graduation ceremony.
"They are sad to have it end."
The teacher's aide, who helps the boys in their classrooms, is confident the graduates "will do incredibly well".
"When we started..as always they were all wild and crazy but these days I see a big group of respectful young men who are going to be leaders in our school for sure," he said.
Mr Heywood says providing "support" is pivotal.
"They get in a place where school isn't fun and they don't enjoy it anymore," he said.
"They're getting into trouble and they don't know how to fix it.
"We come in and remind them we see the good in them and we help them find a way out of that place and support them through it.
"It changes their whole approach to school and themselves."
Step Up, which includes regular discussions and workouts, concludes with a "rite of passage" which in 2019 involved a three-day trek to the Jenolan Caves.
COVID-19 put the kibosh on it this year but a day in the Warrumbungle National Park allowed for "reflection".
Teachers and parents are seeing a difference.
"They finally get to see the son they knew was there," Mr Heywood said.