By Abigail Chifusa, Global Schools Project Officer
Edited by Amanda Abrom
On June 10th and June 11th 2022, the Global Schools Program held a virtual Student Symposium. The symposium was held as an opportunity for talented students worldwide, who are passionate about creating solutions for the SDGs, to present their ideas and projects through creative outputs. Over 200+ participants from around the world joined the Symposium.
The two-day high-impact virtual conference connected students with professionals from diverse sustainability careers, who spoke about their professional and personal journey with the SDGs, sustainability, and climate action.
SYMPOSIUM DAY 1
The first session on Day 1 was moderated by Elizabeth Lerman, Global Schools Project Officer. Global Schools hosted Madelle Kangha, Founder, Jumpstart Academy Africa, and Vihaan Agarwal, Founder, OneStepGreener, as keynote speakers.
During her Presentation, Madelle noted that she was pleased to see a number of young people from all over the world who joined the conference because they are so passionate about making a change in their communities, which is something that resonates very closely with her.
She explained how she used to wonder how to creative a positive impact in her community starting at the age of 13. When she was about 17 years old, she went to study in South Africa where she met other young people who wanted to create change in the world. She emphasized that she enjoys platforms where people come together to discuss sustainability because it provides opportunities to connect, to learn about different and similar perspectives, and to understand challenges in different countries.
Additionally, Madelle mentioned that she was very passionate about education because in some places around the world, the level of education of a girl child is not where it’s supposed to be. She further shared how getting an education as a girl child empowered her to finally become the founder of her organization, Jumpstart Academy Africa. She helps young people become ready for the job market by curbing the skills gap, which has now become a global problem. She explained that in some schools, students don’t learn about entrepreneurship and leadership; instead, they are taught things that employers aren’t looking for. “We teach young people entrepreneurship skills, and 5 to 15 years from now, we want to see young people who are job creators, running businesses and employing other people,” she said.
Madelle guided the young participants on how to drive change in order to promote sustainable development on an international level, while bringing the community closer together. She advised the youth:
To not be comfortable with the status quo and look at how people respond to certain things they are not satisfied with. This should make them feel uncomfortable so that they are hungry to create a change.
To be willing to learn, open-minded, and ready to challenge assumptions. She noted that the three statements go together because many times people make assumptions about the root causes of problems when trying to drive change. She advised it is very important to lay aside assumptions and be open-minded and willing to learn. If assumptions are challenged, this will help everyone build programs that are more sustainable.
To ensure engagement of communities in which programs are working. She explained a concept from Jim Collins’ book that talks about building a clock vs. telling time. Madelle advised that as change-makers, young people should all strive to build the clock and not tell time. Some leaders who are visionary and want to make a change run the risk of “telling the time” because if they move to another place the project stops because they did not involve the community. Whereas, building a clock is like building a system, and leaders should strive to empower all by delegating responsibilities to make sure that the local community is involved so that the project always continues.
In conclusion, Madelle students tips on how to get more involved in volunteering and how to find different opportunities.
She encouraged students to find mentors to guide them and help them avoid certain mistakes.
She advised the students to find local organizations that do work according to their interests. Students should research online and also visit local areas in the community to act as an eye-opener to see and learn diversely.
She suggested students take advantage of networking, emphasizing that the pandemic has taught everyone that things can be done virtually and such platforms must be used wisely to identify leaders to connect with.
Vihaan Agarwal who was also a keynote speaker, started his speech by giving his life experience and how his experience positively benefited his personal and professional journey.
Additionally, he emphasized the importance of knowing the different aspects of creating change in sustainability:
Advocacy: Vihaan noted that there are two types of advocacy i.e (a.) Changing behavior by trying to convince your communities or government (b.) Advocacy that urges action. He explained that the two are highly effective in creating change, especially in a sustainable world.
Action: He said that there are two types of action (a) Action at the individual level (b) Action at the community level.
Furthermore, Vihaad explained that from a young age, he had always realized the importance of the environment and clean air. So along with that, he has always had a passion for the environment, especially nature. At 14 years old, he didn’t see the avenue to change the world, but he took the issue of sustainability personally and started segregating waste at home.
Vihaan, at a very young age, realized that the best way to reduce waste was to segregate it at home; hence, he started segregating and keeping the dry waste in his backyard. After two to three months of keeping the waste, that is when he jumped into action out of necessity.
He explained that necessity means putting oneself in a position where you have no choice but to do the work, and procrastination goes away. Therefore, he started collecting waste from neighbors, found a space to work out of, and hired a truck to pick up waste from 2,000+ homes across three towns as well as 10+ schools and offices.
In terms of educating the masses, Vihaan added that, as of 2022, his organization had trained more than 245,000 people in waste management through zoom and other platforms. He also mentioned that his organization had created curricula that was shared with schools, focusing on the environment, particularly waste management.
Furthermore, Vihaan said that his organization is running in 3 parts, i.e:
Engaging in waste management;
Engaging in urban afforestation in and out of his hometown. To date, they have planted 3,000+ trees and the 2022 plan is to plant 100,000 trees.
To conclude his presentation, Vihaan mentioned that sustainability is not supposed to be the work done, but the work being done has to be sustainable.
Lastly, he advised the students to venture into things that will result in either advocacy and action and once they decide to start off, they must create it in a sustainable manner because these are things that improve everyone’s lives. He added that the students should jump straight into action when they have an idea and not to worry about where to get funds. He noted that once you start, everything starts flowing smoothly. “Creating small steps at the community level are baby steps. They start growing as you take everyone else to take their own steps so that you create a movement,” he said.
At the end of their presentations, the two speakers answered questions from the panelists during the question and answer session regarding their career pathways.
Day 1 Session 2
Day 1 Session 2 was moderated by Oluwayemisi Ojo, Global Schools Project Officer. She introduced two sessions and the first one was where 4 panelists shared their experiences about their different sustainability fields such as engineering, diversity, energy, etc., and how the students could get themselves involved in sustainable careers with the aim to acquaint students with different careers and experts.
The first speaker, Mike Nike Windmüller, is fascinated by cultures and their influence on human behavior. She is passionate about bringing people together through improved, sustainable intercultural collaboration to promote intercultural competence development in organizations and individuals. Mike has been involved in intercultural research in the field of cultural leadership developing a deeper understanding of the topics of intercultural communication, global competence, international education, and cooperation. She spoke to the panelists about how to develop a career in that aspect.
Audrey Maatchi was the second speaker who believes that sustainable development is only possible if consumption on production patterns was shifted to more sustainable ones. She is passionate about promoting the idea of sustainable cities and the achievement of SDGs at large Andrey founded AudGreen Consulting, a business that accompanies organizations to better perform by adopting sustainability in their development strategy and daily routines. She trusts that by initiating Green awareness in the workplace, many people as possible will be involved as ambassadors of a sustainable lifestyle in their families and communities.
Collins Manyasi was one of the session speakers. He is a researcher and the Program Coordinator at NASARU, a women-led non-governmental organization in Kenya. He has over 8 years’ experience in research and has been coordinating the Climate Change-Adaptation Fund Program at NASARU, which is one of the executing entities of the Adaptation Fund program in Kenya. During his presentation, he talked about climate action with a focus on clean energy.
Samantha Rudick based her presentation on sustainable fashion. She develops strategies and works with partners for the remediation of human and labor rights violations in global supply chains, in her role as the Strategic Engagement Project Manager at Transparentem. Samantha was most recently working with the United Nations as a Policy Specialist and a regional coordinator for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. She was previously the Lead Researcher for Project JUST, investigating the social and environmental impacts of leading fashion brands including analysis of labor standards, child labor policies, and environmental impacts.
After all the presentations, Global Schools Program Manager, Amanda Abrom led the panelists in a 30 minutes breakout session where they were all advised to join in groups around the sustainable careers they were interested in. The breakout rooms allowed students to ask specific questions to the speakers.
The first breakout focused on engineering, technology, and energy where Audrey Maatchi and Ahmed Abdalla were the focal point speakers. The second breakout group discussed diversity equity, inclusion, and gender equality with Mike Nike Windmüller and Abigail Chifusa. The topic of the Environment was covered by Collins Manyasi and Vihaan Agarwal in the third breakout session whereas arts and sustainability were tackled by Samantha Rudick in the fourth breakout which concluded the first day of the Education Symposium.
SYMPOSIUM DAY 2
Day 2 of the Global Schools Student Symposium was moderated by Manager Amanda Abrom and focused on student presentations, allowing students from all over the world to share their sustainability solutions.
Keegan Wallace, Australia
The first speaker, Keagan Wallace, was a student Agency in Action at Scotch College Adelaide, South Australia. He is a Student Ambassador for the Volunteering Strategy for South Australia and volunteers his time with several charities including The Salvation Army, the Australia Red Cross, and The Smith Family. At the age of ten, Keagan published ‘A Crash of Rhinos’. His book raises awareness of the plight of the black rhino species in Africa. The book is sold at Zoos SA stores. Keagan was the first student in South Australia to receive a Green Adelaide grant to establish a native nursery at his school, which involves students in the rejuvenation of Brown Hill Creek, displaying his commitment and contribution to volunteering along with the environment. For the past three consecutive years, Keagan has been a United Nations Youth Voice SA Delegate. Keagan was honored to host the 2020 Department of Human Services Volunteer Thank You Awards held online due to Covid-19. In 2021, Keagan co-hosted the Event live at Her Majesty’s Theatre, which was attended by more than one thousand members of the volunteer community. In October 2021, Keagan was the keynote speaker at a Young Change-makers conference in Adelaide. Keagan’s interactive session guided students through translating their skills gained through volunteering/leadership onto their resumes.
Summa San, Hungary, Nigeria, Philippines, USA
The second presentation was given by three student speakers from the Summa San Organization, Jazmin Zachar, Angieberlis Rivera Ortiz and Renz Torres. The students shared a video that told a story of change where 19 students from 4 continents of the world, namely Hungary, Nigeria, the Philippines, and the USA had been affected by the Global Pandemic in different ways. The video shown during their presentation highlighted how some of the students had been affected by conflict and collapsing economies. Other challenges included fuel crises and food shortages. Additionally, the presentation video showed how the students came together to join project KING (Kids Impacting Nations Globally), which is an educational program for high-schoolers focusing on humanity, justice, and peace. The next group from Summa San, which included Szabõ Stefi, Maricar Sanorjo, Adam, Tummise Ogunwoye gave a presentation about the project they had been working on to help and support refugees in harm by creating a website and mobile application with links to critical information.
Eunsol Roh, Vietnam
Eunsol Roh (Gloria) is a student presenter highly passionate about sustainability and has been involved in many clubs and activities that contribute to the climate crisis. During her presentation, Eunsol highlighted that her goal was to investigate the psychological reason for people’s inactivity towards climate change and promote being sustainable by linking pushing forward happiness as the ultimate motivation. Furthermore, Eunsol shared about her work with the mental health group in her school and how it influenced her project.
Ashley Jun, United States
Ashley Jun, is an 8th grader in Millburn Middle School located in NJ who is very passionate about the environment and has participated in many different environments and sustainability-related conferences/symposiums. Her presentation focused on fast fashion and the impact or clothes on our environment. She has independently created two climate action plans and conducted a bioplastic experiment, creating bioplastics that she is finalizing to sell in the market (Amazon, Etsy, etc). She is also planning on creating small accessories made out of bioplastics like bioplastic keychains and kits for young kids to donate back to any environmental organization. She is also an Eco Ambassador for the Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) at the Earth Institute, Columbia University.
Iteoluwakishi Roland, Nigeria
Iteoluwakishi focused her presentation on recycling, and her initiative, Pro-Gaea. She started out her presentation with a poem entitled, “Our World”. She started her organization to combat plastic waste in Lagos and around Nigeria. Together with her friends, Iteoluwakishi upcycled materials, creating beautiful finished products. She also is involved in the Tech Buzs Group which recently developed an app called Greeneva, which aims to promote the SDGs.
Part 2 of the student presentations was moderated by Samantha Lee, Global Schools Project Officer. The second part of the presentations consisted of another set of amazing students who shared their projects and initiatives.
Swaminathan Visakan, Singapore
Visakan is the founder of FinGeeks, a non-profit organization that aims to alleviate income inequality around the world through a sound financial education. Although many believe that equitable wealth distribution can only be brought about by politicians and governments, Visakan strongly holds that it is youth like him that should push for income inequality and better opportunities for all. As a passionate and fun-loving final year student at Raffles Institution, Visakan loves all things mathematical and analytical. His project presentation focused on making the world a better place by bringing the light of financial literacy to all.
Nathan H. Chan, China
Nathan is an eleventh-grade student of law, international relations, and history studying in Shanghai, China. A published author and researcher of wisdom tales and history, he is multilingual (English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Cantonese, and Arabic) and aspires to create a meaningful impact on social justice. He is the Founder and Director of an international mock trial tournament, The Law Association for Crimes Across History (www.lacah.net), which retries some of history's most heinous perpetrators of evil to gain generational perspective with teams of students internationally. Passionate about using his voice for change, he is also an award-winning orator and hosts a podcast that feeds and shares his passion for social justice and history at www.history42.com. He is currently developing Mission Fortitude, a youth-designed platform that integrates his various initiatives. Working with KIDsForSDGs, nominated for the World Humanitarian Forum Youth Council, and positioned to host a Social Enterprise World Forum community hub later this year, the end goal is to inspire and equip 10,000 youth across 100 countries with the necessary skill set to develop their own blueprint of social impact. Nathan hopes to realize tangible and measurable socio-economic impacts in 5 years. Nathan’s presentation focused on Mission Fortitude, which focuses specifically on Sustainable Development Goal 16.
Laksshha Khanna, Aishee Majumder, and Sudiksha Chakraborty, India
This group presentation of students from Sushila Birla Girls School focused specifically on gender equality and SDG 5 in India. Students presented detailed research about the state of women in their local communities. They also presented creative poems to express their thoughts on SDG 5. Laksshha writes captions and articles for 'Voicing Youth', a youth-led organization. She interned at Hulladek, an e-waste recycling company, for a 4-week program in June 2021 as their Green Ambassador and educated people about e-waste and the importance of recycling it. Aishee has always been a high achiever in academics with numerous medals, prizes, and certificates to her credit. She has won medals for her performance in English, Mathematics, Science, and Astronomy Olympiads and Asset Talent Search Examinations. Recently, one of her short stories got published in Cloud 9, a national magazine curated by the author, Ruskin Bond. Sudiksha has won her school’s General Proficiency Award for several years, she also enjoys public speaking and is a trained dancer. Sudiksha held the post of the House Prefect in the year 2021 and had been elected as the School Captain in 2022. She possesses great leadership skills and creative thinking is her forte.
Chuang Hui Hua Vera, Hong Kong
Vera is a 16-year-old tech-innovator for social impact, SDG ChangeMaker, and volunteering enthusiast. She advocates for empowering her local community with the ambition to bridge the technological opportunity gap, as well as working with youth regionally to scale impact. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SimplyShare, a student-led platform connecting youth to skill-based volunteer opportunities for impoverished children. Having built a community of 100+ passionate high school students, the team has collaborated with 7 NGOs locally and internationally, joined by over 200 volunteers, and served over 450 children in their 25 workshops thus far. Currently innovating for more sustainable impacts, Vera is developing SimplyShare’s mobile app Bundled, a one-stop donation platform for youth to donate resources to grass-root NGOs. She is also the Hong Kong Chapter Lead of Superposition, an international non-profit empowering women in STEM through education and community. Passionate about the cross-paths of tech and inequality mitigation, the team has been striving to make innovation opportunities accessible in their local community. Vera led the 1st Runner Up team in the Hong Kong Code2App Challenge, integrating AI technology with daily routines to facilitate better physical and mental well-being. She strongly believes in leveraging technology and maximizing its benefits to achieve sustainable communities and cities.
Azra Ayşe Bıçakcı, Turkey
Azra is an 11th grader in İstek Science High School who has worked with her friends to create several science projects to protect environmental sustainability. She is involved in Model United Nations where she has the chance to discuss global issues and work in collaboration with people all around the globe to find tangible solutions. Her presentation focused on a self-created art exhibition with drawings that addressed global issues. Azra’s intention was to make people think and see their reactions to her art. Azra has donated the income of the sales of her drawings to an NGO which supports the education of persons with disabilities. She is passionate about doing her part and making the world a better place.
To conclude, breakout rooms were hosted, giving participants an opportunity to ask students individual questions about their work and presentations.