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Student, 15, wants teens to talk

Somersfield student Katherine Tobin, 15, aims to get a conversation going (Photograph supplied)

A 15-year-old schoolgirl has organised a youth conference to tackle controversial subjects with respect for different views.

Katherine Tobin, a pupil at Somersfield Academy in Devonshire, said the conference would discuss topics such as race, gender and sexual orientation.

She said: “We all have the right to an opinion and we should be able to discuss them in a respectful way.”

“It’s important to understand that everyone’s opinion has value.”

The youth forum, open to students from all the island’s schools, will be on January 19.

Katherine planned the event with Stacey Williams, Somersfield’s diversity co-ordinator.

The school’s PTA sends pupils to the international Student Diversity Leadership Conference every year and Katherine attended last year’s event in Anaheim, California. The M5 student will also attend the next conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Katherine said: “It had a definite impact on me, but I want to make a conference specific to Bermuda because we have issues here that don’t apply they way they do globally.

“The main impact I want to have is to normalise these conversations and set the tone for what they should be.

“Globally, we struggle having conversations with people who disagree with us. That shouldn’t be the case.”

The Paget teenager, who is also president of the Somersfield Interact Club, has had a “passion for fairness and justice” all her life.

Katherine said: “I’ve always believed we should not be judged by factors we can’t control — we should be in charge of making our path for our own lives.

“Once I was 12, I started to get interested in politics. I was struggling with the injustices I recognised in our world.”

Movements led by young people have taken centre stage in the United States, such as the March for Our Lives demonstration for gun control in March.

A commitment to diversity and fairness has also been evident in movements such as the anti-sexual abuse #MeToo campaign and Black Lives Matter.

But Katherine said: “We need to improve our world in a range of areas. I don’t think it’s fair to focus on just one.”

She added that some subjects were still “taboo” in Bermuda.

Katherine said: “We don’t talk about politics because it’s controversial. But if we set ground rules, and educate ourselves about the way to approach these conversations in a respectful manner, we can do it.”

She added: “It’s not about changing someone else’s opinion, and I don’t want people who disagree to feel attacked in any way.”