NEXT month Panthers on the Prowl will walk the Kokoda Track with seven year 11 high school students they selected from different Penrith schools. The trek runs from October 12 to 20.
Panthers on the Prowl is a joint community development program between Penrith Panthers and the Education Department, offering part-time tuition to students outside the mainstream school system, sometimes with Panthers players as mentors.
"We wanted to offer some students a great experience that built up their leadership qualities," said Prowlers' general manager Brad Waugh. "They had to tell us why they'd like to go to Kokoda and what sort of benefits they'd get from it."
The Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea marks the journey taken by Australian soldiers who stopped the Japanese advance in 1942.
Some historians argue the battle may even have saved Australia from invasion.
Walking the track has become popular with Australians interested in the history of the conflict.
"Both of my grandfathers, Ronald Rodman and Gordon Gilmore, fought in World War II," said Joshua Rodman, of Kingswood High. "I didn't spend much time with either of them. I wish I had. It's why I've always wanted to walk the track and I'm grateful and excited I was chosen."
Travis Cobb, of Cranebrook High, is excited, too. "It's a great opportunity and a life-changing experience," he said. "I want to see the people of Papua New Guinea, experience their culture and see what the soldiers did for my country."
Tijmen Hopman, of Nepean High, hoped enduring the walk's hardship and difficulties would help him face other challenges.
"I want to learn leadership skills and this is a way to do that," he said. "This is a really great opportunity. I'm over the moon."
Jordan Murray, of Glenmore Park High, wanted to experience some of what Australia's soldiers had gone through at Kokoda.
"It'll be physically and mentally demanding going through the mud and the bush," he said. "But I believe it's going to be life-changing for me and I appreciate they believe I deserve this trip."
Ashley Figg, of Jamison High, was surprised but delighted to be selected. "I want to go because I'm interested in military history and I believe the leadership skills I learn will be useful," he said.
Chris Marinakis, of Cambridge Park High, said Kokoda was an important part of Australian history and he wanted to experience it. "This is a good opportunity to see what the soldiers went through and gain more knowledge about the battle," he said.
Dayvis Heyne, of Penrith Christian School, believed the experience could only improve him.
"It'll be a great experience, meeting the local people and getting to know people I haven't met before," he said. "I'm a little nervous about it but also extremely excited."