THE Moonee Valley Kokoda Program was given a huge endorsement last week with confirmation that Victoria's chief police commissioner Ken Lay is taking part in this year's trek.
It's the first time the state's top cop has joined the crew and is considered a great boost for the trip's profile and recognition of its past success.
Before leaving, chief organiser Moonee Valley community liaison officer Senior Constable Del King said it would be a great thrill for the students and other police to have Mr Lay on board.
Students, teachers, business leaders and police from across Moonee Valley have started their gruelling trek across the Kokoda Track.
The crew was scheduled to hit the track at Kokoda Village last Sunday, and it will trudge 96 kilometres across the Owen Stanley Ranges with the goal of reaching the gates at Owers' Corner by this Sunday, July 8.
The annual adventures started in 2007 as a way of forging better relations between 'at risk' youths and police in Moonee Valley's south, but as the social climate has changed so has the program.
The Kokoda trip works to develop young leaders and gives confidence to teenagers at a time when the lines between adolescence and adulthood are blurred.
In all, 17 students from St Bernard's and Mount Alexander colleges will take on the challenging trek with nine police officers, including Mr Lay.
One of the students taking part is Mount Alexander College's Myles Legudi for whom the trip holds special significance.
His grandfather Ken Martin served on the track during World War 2.
After contracting malaria, he was helped back to Owers' Corner on the way to Port Moresby by Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
"For mum and grandma, this is pretty significant; they thought [my walk] was a great idea," Myles says.
Once again, the Moonee Valley Weekly will follow the Kokoda trip every step of the way through online diary updates direct from the Owen Stanley Ranges.
Students will take turns each night to report on their experience via satellite phones.