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An extraordinary week in Washington

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At the beginning of the summer holiday of 2018, most students, myself included, basked in the wondrous prospect of doing nothing.

However, for one group of Warwick Academy students, this was not the case. Eager to grasp an opportunity that would “only come once” in a lifetime, Warwick Academy students, Giovanni Hollis, Mika Woods, Angele Basden and Shane White, attended the 2018 Global Young Leaders Conference.

The summit, inviting students from across the world, stands as a forum at which young people can discuss and debate the 17 Sustainable Development Goals implemented by the UN.

Students were able to commune and engage in a six-day conference designed to get young minds thinking of solutions for an environmentally and economically sustainable planet.

After two months of free time, our summer comes to a close, and we students reflect on the past two months.

Relaxing, vacationing or procrastinating may come to mind but, for these young leaders it is a time to reflect on their invaluable experience at the GYLC.

As someone who considered going on this trip, I was keen to hear, first hand, what it was like.

Before the conference ...

The Global Youth Leaders Conference, founded in 1985 by Dr Marguerite C. Reagan, is intended to build skills in diplomacy, public speaking, decision-making through education of groups of international scholars.

First, students must be nominated by a teacher who feels that they are globally aware and willing to learn and listen to others.

After being nominated, the students from Warwick Academy decided it was for them.

Giovanni has “always aimed to be globally minded and be socially, culturally and politically aware”.

He wanted the opportunity “to meet like-minded people and have fun while doing work to develop ideas to better tackle 17 major problems by 2030”.

Mika Woods took this opportunity “to improve on leadership skills, learn about global issues and be placed in a new environment to meet new people and work with them”.

It was a learning experience she “didn't want to miss”.

How did you feel about going to the conference and what did you expect?

Gio: I was extremely excited to go on the trip because I love to meet new people and make new connections. I was a little nervous just before we arrived, it soon went away when I met some of the most welcoming people I've known to date.

Mika: At first, I wasn't very excited for the conference. It sounded amazing, but I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it. I can gladly say that the conference exceeded my expectations and was incredible. I didn't expect to have so much fun while working so much, but I did.

Gio: I had expected very formal events and ways of tackling problems we would discuss, however, the way in which we completed the curriculum was really creative and fun. Therefore, I think it exceeded my expectations because I achieved all my goals for the conference, met lots of amazing people and had fun while doing it!

Shane: While I was preparing for the conference, I couldn't properly determine what my experience was going to entail. I knew that there would be people my age, from all around the world attending it. When I arrived at the campus, I met my roommates and my country group, and I knew from there that it was going to be a great experience; and I was spot-on.

Angele: I won't lie, at first (especially in the airport) my heart was racing, and I was filled with nerves, but as soon as we met with other students who were all in the same position my nerves were gone. I went into this experience without any expectations and it really helped with my experience. I wanted to maximise my experience and not have it hindered by expectations.

Day to day ...

Giovanni and Mika attended the conference from July 2 to 11 with Warwick Academy student Matisse Bascome, whilst Angele and Shane attended from the July 10 to 16 along with another Warwick Academy student, Nathan Cabral.

During their time at the Global Youth Leaders Conference, students had a rigorous schedule. Waking at 6.30 to be ready for the leadership group meetings, attendees moved on to reviewing topics surrounding their appointed country, did projects and enjoyed cultural activities.

What was your daily schedule?

Shane: During the conference, we were split up into country groups, made up of around twenty-five to thirty scholars. We were then given tools to research the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

All of our perspectives had to be on behalf of our designated country groups (mine being France), and both the Government and concerned citizens of the country. After researching and assigning goals to members of the groups, we discussed our assigned goal with other countries.

Finally, proposals were made, and resolutions were chosen to then be acknowledged in the Global Summit, where all of the scholars voted on whether or not their country would support it.

Gio: We had meetings where we worked on proposals, aiming to present them at the UN. I jointly presented a proposal on sustainable cities and communities with a girl from Australia. We would then have lunch and go out for cultural activities or sightseeing.

Mika: It was incredibly busy, by the end of the conference I was exhausted, however, although we didn't get much shopping time (two hours) or lunch time (30 minutes) we were able to visit the White House, the United Nations, Rockefeller Centre and embassies such as Saudi Arabia's.

Who attended?

Gio: Approximately 380 students attended from 140 different countries and nations around the world.

People could speak first-hand about the crises in their respective countries and it felt real and important when discussing the problems and offering solutions based on pre-existing policies in other countries or sometimes our own creative thinking.

I felt like I was being groomed to make a difference. I felt like I was communing for a purpose.

Mika: It was very multinational. I learnt so many different phrases in different languages such as Bulgarian, Chinese, German and even Latin.

Angele: This conference was by far the most multinational experience I have ever had! To meet, interact and collaborate with so many international scholars it was such an amazing experience which is so hard to put into words.

Above all ...

What made this trip for the students was the experience of meeting people. Giovanni felt that although the “academic curriculum was outstanding, the friends made it”. Mika Woods said “meeting new people and making new friends is the highlight of the trip”.

What did you take away from it?

Gio: The most important thing I took away from it is that anyone can make a difference. One must look at things from more than one perspective as it is key to lasting change.

I attended and asked questions at a lecture on social entrepreneurship in Zambia and Africa and talked about global problems with a group of friends.

I realised that perspectives and connections with others are super important in making positive global change.

Mika: The conference helped me develop my social skills like starting conversation with someone I haven't met.

The conference helped me develop skills in solving problems, teamwork, leadership, negotiation and public speaking.

Shane: One of the main ideas that I took from the conference, was the concept of “Global Awareness”.

In Bermuda, we are somewhat secluded from the rest of the world and its harsh events.

Meeting people from over 150 countries and having discussions about their countries social, economic and political predicaments, was able to give me insight as to what other countries really experience; not just what the media wants to tell us.

This summit is called the Global Young Leaders Conference and while I was there, I was able to hone in on my leadership skills and was even voted chairman of my working group; where I advised, assisted and kept order during resolution preparations.

Angele: Through this conference I was able to conquer my fears of public speaking and meeting new people.

I spoke and introduced Angelica Silvero who is the Head of the World Bank Speakers Bureau in front of over 500 people, something I would have never done before this trip.

This conference has increased my confidence and creativity beyond what I thought was imaginable.

It is clear that for these students, the time spent at the Global YLC was indispensable in comparison to a relaxing first week of summer.

Above all, these students seized an opportunity and made the most of it, gaining a memorable experience which rewarded them with some of the most valuable life skills of today.

The Executive Mansion: Nathan Cabral, Angele Basden and Shane White outside the White House in Washington
On the Mall: Giovanni Hollis and Mika Woods stand on The Mall at the Washington Monument in Washington

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Published September 13, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 13, 2018 at 8:42 am)

An extraordinary week in Washington

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