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A catalyst for action

31 Jul 2018

You never know what might turn out to be a catalyst for action, for political or social awakening. In Christchurch, the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) formed in 2010 in the aftermath of the quakes and has since motivated 1000s of young people to volunteer in their community. And in Florida, survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have become activists campaigning for tougher gun control legislation in the US and organising the huge March For Our Lives rallies across the country.

At the invitation of the University of Canterbury and SVA, 28 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School recently visited Christchurch to take part in a week-long summit on youth leadership. A special event for high school students – Leadership Conversations – was held at College on Wednesday 25 July, with students from schools all over Christchurch taking part.

College representatives – Year 11 students Kynan Salt, Jack Drage and Jonty Gallagher, and Year 12 students Zach Gallagher and Matthew Todd – found there was much to think about and discuss, as the “conversations” covered a wide range of themes and ideas, such as cultivating responsible and inspirational leaders, developing social influence, effecting change, and ways to nurture health and wellbeing.

“Listening to them [the shooting survivors] was mind-blowing,” says Jonty. “I could never imagine being in a school shooting here, but in the US it’s frighteningly common.”

“It was pretty scary to find out what they’ve been through,” says Kynan. “But at the same time inspiring to hear how they’ve used that experience to try and create change, be willing to stand up, make a difference, try and do good in the world.”

Whether a natural or man-made disaster, out of these two very different experiences young people have been galvanised into action, wanting to be the change and see the change, and create a more compassionate, connected and humane society for all.

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