High achiever to meet Queen

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Naseby teenager Ash­leigh Smith is proof young peo­ple don’t have to live in big cities to achieve their dreams.

The 19-year-old for­mer Man­iototo Area School stu­dent has been named New Zealand’s Queen’s Young Leader award win­ner for 2017.

Part of the prize in­cludes a one­week res­i­den­tial pro­gramme in the United King­dom dur­ing which she will be con­ferred with their award by the Queen, as well train­ing, men­tor­ing and net­work­ing through­out the year.

‘‘I am so over­whelmed and hum­bled and I am re­ally ex­cited to be able to use these re­sources I have been of­fered to ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity in Cen­tral Otago and New Zealand.

‘‘I am just re­ally proud. To come from Naseby - a small ru­ral com­mu­nity - it just shows you don’t have to live in big cen­tres to achieve what you want to.’’

The train­ing and men­tor­ing com­po­nent of the prize will be valu­able for Smith’s work with Sticks ‘n Stones, she said.

Com­mon­wealth Youth New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Aaron Hape said he was thrilled to see the amaz­ing work Smith had led na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally to fight cyber bul­ly­ing had been recog­nised by the head of the Com­mon­wealth, the Queen.

She was the co-leader and vice chair of the board for Sticks ‘n Stones, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that now had 300 vol­un­teers that fo­cused on pos­i­tive ac­tion to avert the risk of cyber-bul­ly­ing and ag­gres­sive on­line be­hav­iour.

She chaired her lo­cal SnS di­vi­sion, or­gan­is­ing and host­ing events for young peo­ple and par­ents about on­line life and so­cial me­dia.

Men­tal health was a pas­sion and she helped men­tor young peo­ple in schools through­out Cen­tral Otago and Dunedin, help­ing stu­dents to run work­shops about bul­ly­ing and men­tal health. She cur­rently worked with the Gov­ern­ment to help in­form their pol­icy-mak­ing on bul­ly­ing and so­cial me­dia.

Smith hoped to be able to ex­pand the ini­tia­tive to ev­ery school in New Zealand. She just com­pleted her first year of nurs­ing and planned to use her fu­ture ca­reer as an on­go­ing plat­form through which to raise awareness of bul­ly­ing, sui­cide and men­tal health.

Smith was also a mem­ber of Com­mon­wealth Youth New Zealand, and par­tic­i­pated in the 2015 Na­tional Stu­dent CHOGM Pro­gramme.

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