The group has just won a national Youth Champion award in the 2016 Youth Awards, and two members have won national recognition in the same awards — Ashleigh Smith (18) has won a national Changemaker (Community Safety) award, and Keryn Tubbs (17) has won a national leadership award.
Youth Minister Nikki Kaye said the awards recognised young people who had made outstanding contributions to their communities and supported or championed young people.
Sticks ’n Stones provided a platform for young people to have their voices heard and empowered them to take positive action to stop bullying, Ms Kaye said.
With more than 120 members aged 11-18, the group provided workshops, presentations and support for young people and their families, schools and community groups, she said.
Ashleigh was a joint leader of Sticks ’n Stones, and her passion for cyber safety had been recognised across Central Otago as she helped set up the programme in a number of schools, Ms Kaye said.
Keryn was a senior member of Sticks ’n Stones, and was responsible for the growth of many of the organisation’s partnerships, with her leadership and mentoring also spreading across Central Otago.
Ashleigh said it was ‘‘humbling’’ to receive her award, and ‘‘meeting so many inspiring young people’’ at the awards was incredible.
‘‘I am passionate about everyone’s right to grow up in a community that is positive and safe, online and off. Sticks ’n Stones has enabled me to channel my energies into making a difference for people who feel vulnerable because of bullying behaviours.’’
Keryn said receiving the leadership award was ‘‘a really big deal for me, because the opportunities for leadership I have had are very different from those normally offered to young people. I have not had the chance to lead within my own school, but through Sticks ’n Stones I have been able to lead across our region and nationally as well.
‘‘These experiences have enabled me to challenge the perception of a ‘typical teenager’ and show that young people have ideas and opinions that add value.’’
The awards follow the group’s April win of the Australia and New Zealand Mental Health’s Cybersmart STAAR award at the No 2 Bullying Conference on the Gold Coast, at which Keryn gave a presentation on behalf of Sticks ’n Stones.
Several members of the group are on their way to Dublin to make a presentation at the Bullies, Bullied and Bystanders Conference, and later this month four group members will travel to Melbourne to do the same at the National Centre Against Bullying Conference.
Sticks ’n Stones facilitator Karla Sanders said it was important to attend the international events as pupils not only got the chance to present their work and be authentically involved in decisionmaking, but also had the chance to learn about work and research being done internationally.
The travel to Australia was being funded by a Jetstar grant, and many other business and community group supporters were helping spread the group’s work through its other travel and ventures, Mrs Sanders said. The group was ‘‘sincerely grateful’’ for the support.
Sticks ’n Stones had many initiatives under way, including an enterprise project to turn a ‘‘Hey Joe’’ card game and app that explored the effect of bullying into a sustainable business model; to develop an information resource for young people needing support; establish regular community drop-in sessions; develop a new board game; build on its year 8 ambassador programme; present its workshops in more schools; and develop some restorative practicebased programmes.
The group had also just started a school action group at Columba College, in Dunedin.