Inspired by royal experience
Ashleigh Smith doesn’t know how she got to be the one standing in front of Queen Elizabeth II, and says a leaders’ award she received is for those people ‘‘fighting everyday for what they believe in’’.
The 19-year-old anti-bullying campaigner from Naseby was one of 60 young people presented with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award by the Queen herself, in London, on Friday.
Just home from the two-week trip, the Otago Polytechnic nursing student and Sticks ‘n Stones co-founder said she was ’’incredibly inspired’’ by the experience and heaped praise on other members of the Central Otago anti-bullying movement.
‘‘I was lucky to be the person standing there in front of the Queen,’’ Smith said on Monday.
It was recognition for all members of Stick ‘n Stones, she said.
Queen Elizabeth asked her what she did and and after Smith talked to her about her campaign, the Queen replied that she must be ‘‘a very busy person’’.
‘‘It was just the most crazy experience I have ever had.
‘‘There’s just no way to describe it [meeting the Queen and receiving the award].
‘‘Really I was just so proud and humbled.’’
Smith would now focus on upcoming exams before taking time to ‘‘really debrief’’ and decide what was next for Sticks ‘n Stones.
She never imagined the group would garner this much acclaim and have such an impact on young people’s lives.
‘‘I only hoped I could help. It’s really incredible.’’
The Sticks ‘n Stones initiative came after three schoolmates died from suicide in eight months when she attended Maniototo Area School.
Cromwell College’s branch of the group was a testament to just how widely recognised and valued the group had become in the community.
Members received a first ever Good in the Hood grant from Z energy for just over $1200 the same day Smith received her award.
Commonwealth Youth New Zealand executive director Brad Olsen called Smith’s work ‘‘inspirational’’.
‘‘[It] perfectly reflects her compassion and drive to make New Zealand and the world a better place to live in.’’
Smith is co-leader and vice chair of the board for Sticks ‘n Stones.