THE hardships of growing up in a disadvantaged family helped shape 19-year-old Adriana Clarke’s life philosophy: “All kids deserve to start out on the best possible foot.”
Having landed the role as ACT youth ambassador for UNICEF, Adriana will now have the chance to provide help and “a starting ground” for other disadvantaged youths.
The University of Canberra student was one of nine youth ambassadors aged between 15 and 24 selected from 180 applicants Australia-wide, who will work to support children’s rights and raise awareness of issues facing Australian children.
As the only UNICEF youth ambassador for the ACT, Adriana will work on Territory and national projects for a year, including participating in local advocacy campaigns, raising awareness by posting content on social media sites and helping to organise events.
“My national project I’ll be working on, with other ambassadors, is about Aboriginal reconciliation, getting the word out about improving the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, and hopefully working on travelling to the NT and teaching kids there about their rights,” Adriana says.
Her local campaign is teaching students about how to handle bullying situations, and what their rights are in that situation.
Adriana says she’s always had “an eye for volunteering and helping the less fortunate” – she was previously involved in anti-bullying programs at her high school in Dubbo, and currently works in the student equity and disability office at UC.
She says she’s “really honoured and excited” about her new role.
“We’re all very passionate about getting out to our communities and helping children especially, because we can relate to their stories,” she says.
Adriana and her sister were sponsored children with The Smith Family from the age of eight, and she still receives sponsorship for her university costs.
“They helped put us in a better school, put us in clothes and uniforms and start off on a really good foundation,” she says.
“Now, when I am working with disadvantaged kids, it’s great to see their eyes light up when they realise they don’t have to struggle anymore or accept that this is their life – they can take what’s been given and share their own story the way I’ve shared mine.
“They can connect with someone who can understand them and what they’ve gone through.”
Apart from drugs and alcohol, Adriana says bullying is one of the biggest issues facing youth today, and she wants to work to “combat” the problem at local schools.
“I feel like it’s something that kind-of goes unnoticed, like it’s something people perceive as just kids being kids, but its definitely something that needs to be changed – you shouldn’t have to deal with it,” she says.
“I will be trying to raise awareness about people’s rights in that situation, especially for kids so they can handle it in a way that could perhaps break that cycle and they realise they don’t have to be bullied.”
Adriana will juggle her UNICEF role with studies in bachelor of politics and international relations/bachelor of laws at UC.
When she graduates, in about three years, she hopes to pursue a career in children’s rights.