FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Commonwealth Youth New Zealand Executive Director Aaron Hape today congratulated Maniototo Area School student Ashleigh Smith on being named as New Zealand's Queen's Young Leader award winner for 2017.
"I am absolutely thrilled to see the amazing work that Ashleigh has led nationally and internationally to fight cyber bullying has been rightly recognised by the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty The Queen," said Mr Hape, who is also a former member of the panel that selects Queen's Young Leader award winners.
"I also congratulate CYNZ members Alex Bengree and Loren Shudder-Hill on being named as Runners Up.
"Through their respective work, Ashleigh, Alex, and Loren represent the best of Kiwi compassion, kindness, and hard work. I am sure that anyone who reads about their journeys will be inspired by their passion," said Mr Hape.
Ashleigh the is co-leader and vice chair of the board for Sticks n Stones (SnS), an organisation that focuses on positive action to avert the risk of cyber-bullying and aggressive online behaviour. She is also chair of her local SnS division, where she organises and hosts events for both young people and parents about online life and social media.
In addition, she mentors young people in schools throughout Central Otago and Dunedin, helping students to run workshops about bullying and mental health. Ashleigh is currently working with the Government to help inform their policy-making on bullying and social media. SnS now has 300 young volunteers, and Ashleigh hopes to be able to expand the initiative to every school in New Zealand. She is also studying to become a nurse, and plans to use her future career as an ongoing platform through which to raise awareness of bullying, suicide and mental health. Ashleigh is also a member of Commonwealth Youth New Zealand, and participated in the 2015 National Student CHOGM Programme.
Winners of this prestigious Award receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the United Kingdom during which they will be conferred with their Award by The Queen. With this support, Award winners will be expected to continue and develop the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.
Previous winners of a Queen's Young Leaders award include Tabby Besley (2015) and Brad Olsen (2016). Tabby founded InsideOUT, which aims to make schools more inclusive places for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Brad, who is also CYNZ's Deputy Executive Director, received his award for his advocacy of children's and young peoples right, and for services to health and education.