Students organise first ever YoungERPower conference to discuss social justice issues

Middle school students from all around London gather during the opening presentation at the first ever YoungERPower conference on April 26 at Westminster Academy. The conference was entirely organized by a group of grade 8 students from ASL (photo courtesy of Mr. Ross).

The first YoungERPower conference was organized by a group of ASL grade 8 students. The conference took place on April 26 for all interested grade 7 and 8 students. The conference consisted of workshops, speakers, and discussions, in which ASL students were able to have a voice in social justice and change along with other students.

The conference was entirely organized by a group of ASL Grade 8 students who attended the Young Power Conference and were inspired to create a conference for a younger group of students. 

On the day of the conference, 120 students from all over London gathered at Westminster Academy to participate. The conference started with guest speakers who addressed the group as a whole. 

For example, Inua Ellams, an African playwright who moved from Nigeria to the UK when he was young, spoke about the troubles of adjusting to a different society. Others spoke about their mental illnesses through poems.

Following these guest speakers there was an identity activity, where students chose three of the eight main identifiers regarding social justice and discussed them with others. These identifiers included race, gender, sexuality, and religion.

Another key event was an activity where students told someone else’s story from their own perspective. This provided them with the chance to empathize with that person’s individual experiences around social justice and inequality. 

Grade 7 aide Mr. Sean Ross, who helped the Grade 8 students prepare for the conference, said, “I think the biggest part of the day was the idea of understanding other people’s experiences, what that can mean in terms of understanding social justice, and why change is important.”

After this, students took part in workshops linked to social justice and change. For example, there were workshops focused on being yourself, how you can talk about change through spoken poetry, as well as how to start up a charity.

“I loved when we all got to listen to the first speaker because we all connected with him and each other,” seventh-grader Mia Orengo said. “I also liked going off to our little groups, telling our stories, and having them heard without being judged.”

The YoungERPower conference was an opportunity for students to develop communication skills and hear other people’s diverse stories. Students with all different kinds of experiences united together and shared with each other. 

“More than skills, I felt like we learned the value of our beliefs and we got to see different things from different perspectives,” seventh-grader Rudi Chamria said. “Speakers, kids, and people came from so many different environments, places, and backgrounds, which made it interesting to listen and think from different perspectives.”

The YoungERPower conference allowed students to connect with and understand others’ personal stories and experiences, which many were open to sharing without fear of being judged. 

Grade 7 student Tyler Ketchum said, “My favorite part of the event was the intensity of stories that really touched me because they helped me to see the enormous challenges facing marginalized people in the greater London community.”

About Sophia Bassi ('24)

Staff Writer 2017-2018

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