Second year nursing student Ashleigh Smith, 19, of Naseby will receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award for co-leading Sticks n’ Stones, a youth-led group aimed at equipping youth with the tools to recognise and stand up to bullying.

Her involvement with the group began when she was 13 and three of her schoolmates, including her cousin David-Jade (DJ) Comb, took their own lives within an eight-month period.

“It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever been through.

“For myself and my community.”

Then in Year 9 at Maniototo Area School, she was one of a group of students from five Central Otago schools to start Sticks n’ Stones in 2013.

The programme to educate youth about bullying was a way to deal with the “absolute confusion, anger and sadness” she felt at losing people she admired, Smith said.

Five years on she still found herself thinking about what her schoolmates would have been doing with their lives, but also how to prevent bullying.

“We put a lot of pressure on youth and saying they should confront bullies.

“Our youth who are involved in the programmes are saying we need education to know how to stand up in these situations.”

When she was not studying, one of her passions was visiting schools and speaking to youth about how to develop skills to address bullying via social media and in person.

Her involvement with the programme had also influenced her approach as a nursing student.

“It’s a career with some incredible ways to learn skills …

“To be able to go in and help someone through probably the some of the lowest points in their life, and get them through that is incredible.”

At present she was on placement at Dunedin Hospital and did not have time to learn the etiquette of meeting the Queen.

“It’s a month today until I’m at the palace so I’m hoping someone will teach me when I’m over there.”

Smith would be one of 60 young people from the Commonwealth to be presented an award and spend five days at Cambridge University learning about leadership.


Where to get help if you or someone you know needs it:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633
  • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
  • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
  • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
  • Samaritans 0800 726 666
  • If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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