YOUNG people are considered “helpless, naïve, indifferent and lazy” on societal issues. WE Movement (WE) speaker Joseph Flores wants young people to challenge that as he said, “These are things that have been told to young people for generations but we’ve never stopped proving them wrong.”
Flores opened Wednesday’s 2019 WE Schools’ youth leadership conference at the Movietowne banquet and conference centre. With the event geared at empowerment, Flores led the 200 students present to pledge, “I am not indifferent and I am not too young. I know change starts with me and together we’ll get it done.”
The event was hosted under WE’s global WE School initiative after the 2017 restructuring of the “Young Leaders” programme by Royal Bank of Canada in collaboration with the WE organisation.
Reminding the students of the role they will play in shaping the future, Flores said, “Real change comes from the people. Today you take the first steps of figuring out what it is that you want to do to address the issues that are in your community.”
WE speaker and facilitator Jalen Nicholson urged, “Speak up, use your voice and use it often.” Saying that decisions are being made by “old guys in suits,” Nicholson challenged students to decide if the decisions fought for the well-being of young people.
Nicholson highlighted the activism of youth climate advocate Greta Thunberg and Mari Copeny who at 11 created headlines on the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Those examples should be the guidelines for local youths to find their voice on issues such as health care, access to clean water, climate change and bullying.
To help students explore social issues, they were placed into four groups that looked at budgeting, sustainable agriculture, leadership and listening. In one group, a WE familiar was heard saying, “Some of us have smaller voices than each other but it doesn’t mean your voice doesn’t matter.”
Teachers were also exposed to a service learning session.
Asked about the day’s importance, WE associate director Ellen Donnelly said, “We are really excited to be here to help inspire these young leaders to become motivated to take action on social causes that they are passionate about.
“WE is a family of organisations that make doing good doable.”
She said 200 TT schools are part of the 18,000 schools that WE worked with globally. The initiative aims to empower young people to make positive change through experiential service-learning.
Form three Rosewood Girls’ student Dwaynice Bravo shared that she was excited to discuss cyberbullying at the event. Asked why, she said, “I’m looking for discussions as to why persons must stop (cyberbullying), because it’s really not a nice thing. I also want to learn ways that cyberbullying can be prevented.”
St Mary’s College fifth form student Sean Yearwood looked forward to discussing agriculture as he said, “I am looking forward to seeing what they do in the agricultural sector. It’s interesting to me and I want to see how the sector affects TT’s GDP.”
Eshe’s Learning Centre form two student Jada Campbell was all focused on how she could help others as she said, “I am looking forward to information on how we can all help to make the world better. Also, I want to learn more about children’s right and keeping the environment clean.”