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North Dunedin Street Cleanup brings students together

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Almost Three years on from the tragic death of second-year student Sophia Crestani, students once again took to the streets of North Dunedin to clean up in her honour.

Almost Three years on from the tragic death of second-year student Sophia Crestani, students once again took to the streets of North Dunedin to clean up in her honour.

Organised with the support of the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA), Property Services, Waste Management, the Sustainability Office, the Proctor’s Office and Campus Watch, the event took place on Friday 8, April.

Since Sophia’s death her parents, Bede Crestani and Elspeth McMillan, have collaborated with the University to create the Sophia Charter – a community commitment to making North Dunedin a fun, safe and secure space which supports student success and wellbeing. Stakeholders of the Charter helped to make the clean-up possible. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Helen Nicholson spoke of the significance of the event and its legacy.

“Together with the Crestani family, the University launched the Sophia Charter in 2020 in memory of Sophia who tragically died at a flat party in North Dunedin in 2019.

“The annual North Dunedin clean up is one of the practical projects that has arisen from the charter. It helps us remember Sophia by creating a healthier and safer North Dunedin for students to live in. We want the leaders of the future to value where they live and understand what it means to be part of a safe community.”

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For Sophia’s best friend Megan Prentice it was special to see people gather for a third year in a way that looks after present students, the environment and treasure the memory of Sophia.

“This is the third year we’ve held this event in Sophia’s honour. Last year was unofficial due to COVID-19 and this year has had an amazing turn out.”

Megan now lives in Wellington but returned to the Dunedin Campus for the clean up to remember her best friend.

“It’s really special to be here. As the years go by there are less and less of us who knew Sophia at Otago. It’s amazing to see people I don’t know here, connecting with and supporting Sophia’s charter. It’s awesome to see the students doing something so positive here. Hopefully one day there won’t need to be a clean up on Castle Street at all, but this is such a good first step.

“I can hear Sophia’s voice in my mind now, she would be so humbled seeing so many people gathering together in her honour. I’m sure she is looking down with a warm heart seeing how people are gathering to do something good in her name.”

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Second year student Anneliese McDuff shares how while she didn’t know Sophia personally, her story still impacts students and so does the annual clean up.

“I’m from Dunedin originally so I knew of Sophia and her story. My parents still talk to me about it and check in with me to ensure I’m staying safe as a result. This clean up is such a good way to honour Sophia and I’m personally really glad we are doing this for the residents and each other.”

This year’s clean up tied in with the regular Diversion Day, leaving the streets of North Dunedin looking welcoming once more in honour of Sophia’s memory.

Kōrero by Internal Communications Adviser, Chelsea McRae