BLOG: Youth Co-chair reflections - Samad
25 September 2012
Saturday - 7am. Hundreds of teenage volunteers are making their way toward the Royal Festival Hall to prepare for what would be the decision-maker for the next ten years of education.
TeachFirst’s Challenge 2012 was all about the youth. It was Haengeun, Michael, Alex, Cyan and my responsibility to communicate the voice of the youth to over three thousand leaders who each wanted to make a difference to the future of the country.
As Youth Co-chairs, Ndidi had perfectly connected us to five impact goals in turning education around, from raising the success rates in deprived schools to ensuring students graduate from university. We also focused on well-being, where some young people are being labelled “NEET”s and had little resilience to reach aspirations.
Being able to not only speak to an audience of influential people, but also being listened to, was what made the Challenge2012 a leap in the right direction. I was especially awe-struck at the amount of people that had given up their weekend with one thing in mind – giving children the education they deserve.
During the course of the day, the Youth Co-chairs and I had the privilege of being involved with the incredible discussions at the Collective Impact Round Table. I was amazed to sit with people like Lord Adonis, the former education minister, Sarah Connor, director of Collective Impact at Teach First, and Professor Mick Waters, Fellow of the College of Teachers. Some particular issues bought up included connecting the community together; giving parents have a recognised responsibility in the education of their child; joining businesses together so that students have a stronger communication with future career partners; and an alumni system where students can relate to the successes of other young people.
Even after the discussions at the Round Table, I was surprised to find more and more inspiration throughout the event. In a panel talk hosted by InspirationalYOU, Jacob Sakil, an aspiring politician from the US, had articulated that his biggest challenge in life was finding the right company: “when you are doing something different from everyone else, they penalise you”.
Another fantastic session (which started with the audience trying to throw their questions into a bucket carried on someone’s head) debated access into higher education. Mirela Ivanova had bought up an issue which is prevalent among most of my friends: “too many people settle in with being top in class, rather than top in country. Being satisfied with their position leads to lack of progress”.
I remember the feeling of the powerful energy during the climax of the Challenge2012. Ten people had voiced their commitments for after the ceremony, including a young boy who had said how he will “continue to work hard and not give up” after sharing a beautiful poem reflecting on the day. The epic closing ceremony ended with the story of one girl’s struggle in life because of her background. It bought together the reason for Teach First - to break the knot between the education of young people and their social and economic background.
My hope for Challenge 2012 was that every individual takes something personal and unique to them: a goal, an ambition, or a target, and acts toward it, because that’s where the change comes from. This day isn’t about one big linear alteration, but a change in the community where everyone’s small differences contributes to the big impact that we hope to achieve.