Amelia Peel has already made a big difference in her school and she hopes her involvement in this week's Blake Inspire programme will help her expand that into the wider community.
The Year 13 student from Queen Margaret College in Wellington is one of two sailors who received Yachting New Zealand scholarships to attend Blake Inspire, a week-long residential leadership development programme that also teaches participants about topical environmental issues and how they can take action to tackle them. Helena Sanderson from the Bay of Islands will also attend.
Peel founded the environmental group at her school in 2019, and has led a number of changes around campus including in the way the school's cafeteria packages food. She also led as many as 70 girls from her school at the recent Wellington climate march and this year became the environmental prefect.
"The more I get into it and learn about it, the more I want to do it in my future," Peel said. "I would love to be able to merge my passion for the environment and sailing. It seems like such an amazing combination."
Amelia Peel and Helena Sanderson
Sanderson's interest in environmental issues has been more organic but no less significant. The 16-year-old, who is home schooling in 2021 through Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, has sailed at a high level, having competed at the 2019 youth sailing world championships and two Nacra 17 world championships.
But it's her awareness of her playground that has sparked her interest in becoming more involved.
"In my sailing, there’s always been a bit of a disconnect between what you learn in school and sailing," she said. "I’m really passionate about sailing. It’s not just about competing but it’s about the feeling you get being on the water and the fact I really love the ocean.
"I have been a pretty outdoorsy person all my life but it’s taken a while for me to realise the environment isn’t as perfect as it looks on the surface. I feel my best when sailing and tramping. I want to keep having those experiences. My passion has grown from my own personal experiences and over the years I have become more aware of the problems that need our help. Blake Inspire was the perfect ticket to learn more about what I can do."
The pair will be among 35 youngsters taking part in Blake Inspire this week, which will involve working with scientists, environmental experts and a diverse range of leaders.
It is the fifth year the programme has been run, on top of the Blake Inspire for Sailors held in conjunction with Yachting New Zealand in 2019. Blake Inspire delegates become eligible to join future Blake Expeditions as student voyagers and it's hoped graduates take ideas back to their club and community so they can make a difference.
Peel is hoping to study global studies at Auckland University next year and is eyeing a career in environmental education and Sanderson wants to study environmental science in 2022.
"I’m really excited because I want to learn more about what I can do and how I can launch myself into that career in this area," she said. "I want to be part of the solution and learning now about what I can do is definitely a good place to start."
You can learn more about Blake Inspire here.