Two students have made history by being the first Samoan youth to be awarded prestigious fellowships by the Sir Peter Blake Trust in New Zealand to take part in the Sir Peter Blake Youth EnviroLeader Forum (YELF) in New Zealand this month.
Both students are columnists for the Samoa Observer’s weekly ‘Newspapers in Education’ feature.
They will represent Samoa at the week-long forum to be held in Auckland from 18-24 April.
The programme is fully funded and is run in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment.
Quenjule Slaven, 15, is a student at Saint Mary’s College. She is the founder of an after-school reading/maths programme for child vendors who do not attend school for financial reasons.
“I am so excited and over the moon. I feel very honoured and blessed to be selected for YELF. Thank you so much for such a great opportunity for my country and I hope to learn as much as I can to help others especially the youth in Samoa to be advocates in climate change.
I am also looking forward to participating in field trips and exploring New Zealand, which is such a beautiful country and meeting other kids my age and making new friends” she said.
Jorim-Paul, 16, is a student at Fa-atuatua Christian College. He is the Head Boy of his school and helps teach under-privileged children how to read. Jorim-Paul founded a group called the ‘Envirobassadors’ where he and his peers go around rural villages picking up trash. Jorim-Paul has also been involved in clean-ups throughout Samoa.
“I am so happy that I have been selected for the conference. This is a conference that I really wanted to attend. I am most looking forward to seeing and learning about New Zealand’s native plant and animal life and how they are surviving in a growing, modern city” he said .
Slaven and Phillips will join a group of 60 high school students from New Zealand and the Pacific who are represented by Niue, Cook Islands and Samoa and will come together to learn about our ocean environment.
Conservation International (CI) through the Ocean Health Index Programme, supported the call for applicants from Samoa, in partnership with the Samoa Observer ‘Newspapers in Education’ feature.
“We received some very strong applications from our students in Samoa, and it was very exciting to see so much interest from our young people. This is the first year that Samoa has been part of YELF and we were proud to support this process to ensure high calibre representation from here,” said Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, Oceans Manager for C.I. Samoa.
The focus of this year’s forum is oceans; with an emphasis on marine pollution, ocean biodiversity, marine protected areas and ocean health.
Students will leave YELF equipped with the skills, knowledge and a strong network of young environmental leaders ready to create change across New Zealand and the Pacific.
The delegates will be challenged to develop leadership skills and strategies to address environmental issues within their schools and communities, as well as having fun and making life-long friends and connections.
Sir Peter Blake Trust CEO, Shelley Campbell, says the programme is a transformative week for the students “YELF brings together students from all over the country for a week long experiential learning opportunity. It’s amazing to see how much they develop in one week and this is just the beginning of their journey with us.”
“They arrive with a passion for the environment and leave with skills, knowledge and confidence to lead change in their communities. Our ultimate hope is that in time these young people step up to make changes.”
“The health of our oceans are complex issues and we need to start upskilling our young people now. They are the ones who will ultimately address them,” says Campbell.
Over the week the students will have the opportunity to be involved in range of activities, including:
• Learning about marine conservation at Goat Island the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland
• Developing leadership and teamwork skills for two days with the Royal NZ Navy
• Taking part in a microplastics lab looking at facewash and the effects on the environment
• Media workshop with leading media and science communicators
• Visiting Orakei Marae to learn about Kaitiakitanga, including iwi sustainability initiatives and guardianship of oceans
• Visiting Rotoroa Island to learn about biodiversity, habitat and marine animals
• During the week the students will hear from Sir Peter Blake Trust alumni, Ministry for the Environment staff, local and national politicians, subject experts, scientists and community leaders.
YELF students are eligible to be part of the Young Blake Expedition voyages to the Kermadec or Sub-Antarctic Islands.