Reflections on the One Young World Summit

Today’s guest blogger is Annie Kessler, School Partnerships Director at City Year New York. Annie is an alumna of the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 New York corps. Last week, she represented City Year New York and Alcoa at the One Young World Summit. 

“Boat cruise in Pittsburgh for kickoff of @OneYoungWorld!” -@KesslerAnnie

On Saturday night I sat down to a full Thanksgiving dinner in Pittsburgh  Pennsylvania. There was turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole and of course, pumpkin pie. At the end of the meal, we went around the table and talked about what each of us is thankful for. We were thankful for family & friends, for our hosts The Badger family who opened their home and put on this delicious spread (even though it was about a month before Thanksgiving Day) and for the opportunity to be attending the One Young World conference on behalf of our companies, universities & organizations. This conference gave each of us the chance to meet 1,300 young leaders from 183 countries and learn about global issues from some of the best and brightest minds from around the world.

The conference kicked off on Thursday evening with a performance from Joss Stone, a question and answer session with President Bill Clinton and inspirational words from Nobel Laureate Professor Mohamed Yunnus. President Clinton covered topics from genocide in Rwanda to global warming with an impressive level of detail. Professor Yunnus helped set the tone for the conference, encouraging delegates to go against the grain and do the opposite of what is expected in order to enact change. Other highlights over the course of the three days included learning about an initiative started by delegate Sujit Lalwani called IUYouth2Children, working to bring more internet accessibility to schools in rural India, a passionate human rights presentation by Simon Rodgers and Carolina Bonin about their global work for the LGBTQ community and an out of this world presentation by astronaut Ron Garan about his time on the international space station. I was a little star struck by Jamie Oliver, who led conversations about food security and was completely in awe to get to hear from Kofi Annan about his experiences and thoughts about the vital role of young leaders in the future.

“Some people are gay, get over it. inspired by @simonrodgers and @carolinacoaches on human rights #oyw.” -@KesslerAnnie

The conference wasn’t all work and no play. The city of Pittsburgh put on an amazing welcome party on Thursday night with tastes of food from around the city and spectacular fireworks. Friday breakout sessions gave delegates the chance to explore the city; I had the chance to take a tour of PNC park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, to learn about the values of education and service that this club instills in its young Dominican players at their academy. Over 100 local families opened up their homes and their kitchens to delegates, which led me to Badger family home, who put on an amazing Thanksgiving dinner as a way to welcome the international delegates to our country.

Thankful is definitely a word that I can use to describe the entire experience. I am thankful to the Alcoa Foundation for sponsoring me to attend this amazing conference, I am thankful that I got to meet so many amazing new friends who are changing the world and I am thankful for the work that my colleagues at City Year New York are doing to impact the high school drop out crisis. Aside from feeling grateful, I also walk away from this experience inspired with a call to action, which is key to the One Young World model; it’s great to meet and learn and network but action is a must. So what’s my call to action?

  1. Connect City Year & One Young World: both organizations share the belief in the power of young people to change the world, both have a presence in London and One Young World 2013 will be hosted by a City Year city, Johannesburg South Africa. Those are too many commonalities for me to ignore and I want to do whatever I can to ensure that there are red jackets at this conference in the future.
  2. Connect City Year youth with others around the world: I made several new friends who work with youth in Canada, Cameroon & India and we share the belief that we have the ability and the responsibility to provide a platform for our students to learn about each other’s cultures, challenges & beliefs. We need young people to have more than just pen pals. They need the opportunity to learn about and discuss challenging topics with peers around the world if we’re going to ensure that they become truly educated global citizens.
  3. Find more opportunities to personally connect with youth: I spent the conference talking about all the great work our corps members do and the importance of all One Young World delegates being a tutor, coach or mentor to students in their community. Although my work as a school partnership director allows me to have indirect impact on students, I need to take action and find an opportunity to be more directly involved with youth in my community. I want to make sure that five or ten years from now there are students from NYC writing a blog post about the amazing experience they had at a One Young World conference.

To see more from Annie’s time at the One Young World summit, check out her Twitter feed!