Stoneman Douglas students traveling to New Zealand for youth leadership summit

(WSVN) - They’re separated by oceans but connected by tragedy. Now Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are taking the trip of a lifetime to meet other teens with a shared purpose. 7’s Brian Entin explains in our special report.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas students took a tragedy … and turned it into a movement with walkouts, rallies and marches.

Their youth-led activism didn’t just get the attention of the country. It got noticed all the way on the other side of the world.

Ana Solano, MSD student: “And we all kind of just looked at each other like, ‘What? Did you just say New Zealand?'”

Ana, Ma’ayan and Emma are three of the 28 MSD students about to travel 8,000 miles to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Ana Solano: “To see the support come from New Zealand, too? I mean, that’s insane — absolutely insane. Never in a million years did I think something that would ever happen.”

What do students in New Zealand have in common with the Parkland teens?

Turns out … a lot.

In 2010 and 2011, New Zealand suffered two devastating earthquakes just months apart.

One-hundred and eighty-five people died.

While it was a natural disaster, the fear and emotions were similar to what students and parents felt in Parkland.

Images of stunned survivors — running and crying.

A massive emergency response.

And then — just like in Parkland — it was young people who rose up.

Thousands of students quickly organized a massive cleanup and rebuilding operation known as the Student Volunteer Army.

Emma Pratt, Student Volunteer Army: “We were born from an earthquake. Them from their shooting, unfortunately. But we both connected and we both empowered ourselves, used this tragedy to empower ourselves and become the change in our community.”

The Parkland teens will spend a week with the Student Volunteer Army in New Zealand, brainstorming on student leadership and volunteerism.

And the summit is not about one specific cause. It’s about the next generation looking to promote change in the world.

Ma’ayan Mizrahi, MSD student: “I’m beyond inspired by their activism at that hard time for them.”

Emma Davis, MSD student: “They’ve just created something so amazing after a tragedy. And I want to learn from them of how we can bring that to our community.”

For almost a decade, New Zealand students have managed to maintain their mission — organizing huge, student-led projects — planting, painting and building.

And now, they’re looking to create a new partnership with Parkland.

Ana Solano: “After everything that’s happened, it’s kind of like the sun is finally coming out. After a rainy storm that seemed like it was never going to end. And finally, you know, the rainbow is out, the sunshine is out, and we’re getting something good out of something really bad.”

The students are leaving for New Zealand on Saturday. They’re paying for part of their trip. Also, the Stoneman Douglas Alumni Association, the government of New Zealand and Air New Zealand are helping with the costs.

For more information on the Student Volunteer Army, visit

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