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Student Volunteer Army to reconnect with Parkland students

Student Volunteer Army to reconnect with Parkland students in Florida

Twelve youth leaders from the University of Canterbury’s Student Volunteer Army (SVA) are reconnecting with students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in the United States, this month from 26 November to 8 December.

The SVA will be officially recognised by the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs in City Hall presentations honouring the University of Canterbury students for reaching out across the world with their invitation to Florida’s MSD High School students to visit Christchurch, New Zealand, for a Youth Leadership Summit.

The two student groups met at the University of Canterbury-hosted Youth Leadership Summit in Christchurch in July and produced a white paper/how-to-guide for organising youth movements, 10 Essential Lessons: Sustaining a Youth Movement.

As well as presentations about their uniquely Kiwi brand of student organisation, the SVA students have been asked to teach four classes at MSD High School, and to meet with US leaders in the local education, political and indigenous sectors, including representatives from the Native American Seminole tribe, and Florida Atlantic and Lynn Universities.

The SVA students will also visit the US capital, Washington DC, invited by Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents the Parkland district of Florida and was recently re-elected in the mid-term elections.

SVA President Josh Blackmore says he looks forward to re-engaging with the SVA’s friends in Florida, “who have done such incredible work connecting people to an issue which has affected their lives so profoundly”.

“It is incredible to witness young people across the world stepping up and leading movements of change. We have been truly inspired by the journey of the students from Parkland following the tragedy on 14 February,” Josh Blackmore says.

“The Student Volunteer Army, which formed as a grassroots response to the massive earthquakes and devastating damage to our beloved city of Christchurch eight years ago, continues to thrive,” says SVA Vice-President Emma Pratt.

“The SVA movement has always focused on connections; connecting people with issues, causes and communities we can help, and showing them the power we all have to make a genuine difference,” she says.

The SVA students will be accompanied by education academic UC Associate Professor Billy Osteen, who is a Student Volunteer Army Foundation trustee.

“During my 25 years of teaching using outside-of-the-classroom experiences and researching their impact, I’ve had the opportunity to witness how outside learning has been life-changing because of the immersive nature of the experiences,” Dr Osteen says.

“Similarly, the hosting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students in July by the SVA and UC, and now this reciprocal visit to South Florida will be transformative because of the shared experiences and common interests in learning and emerging from tragedy with a purpose and a passion to empower and influence others.”

The trip is funded by the 12 SVA students with support from the University of Canterbury, UC Foundation, Air New Zealand, donations, and the hosting parties.


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