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Student organizers prepare to take part in youngPOWER conference

Photo courtesy of Sean Ross
Students form discussion groups while attending youngPOWER last year at Westminster Academy. Organizers from the school and Westminster Academy have been preparing for this year’s conference which will host over 150 students from eight different schools around London.

Over 150 students from secondary schools across London will attend the youngPOWER conference at Westminster Academy March 15. The day-long conference will allow students to identify pathways to improve local communities and break down barriers through workshops and discussions, according to youngPOWER.

Executive Board Member Gracie Lamberton (‘25) said the Board, comprised of High School students from the school and Westminster Academy, has had weekly meetings to organize the event.

“Even if you don’t have a passion for social justice it’s a really good opportunity to meet people with different perspectives and learn… these managerial tasks and, you know, it’s genuinely really fun,” Lamberton said.

When deciding on this year’s conference theme of mental health, Lamberton said the Board decided it would be a suitable bridge between several relevant societal issues, especially considering the anxiety that can come when thinking about such daunting social justice topics.

“We thought it was really well applicable, and what we’re gonna want to talk about this time is, like, how we can make things better,” Lamberton said. “Not just address the topic, but how can we make things better for ourselves and our world.”

Director of Community Action Brandon Block said this year’s conference will feature speakers who will talk about their work to inspire conference attendees to use their voices. Block said the two main speakers are poet Inua Ellams and food justice campaigner Christina Adane.

After hearing speakers present, Block said students will have the opportunity to reflect by breaking into smaller cohorts.

“A lot of the day is about discussion and dialogue,” Block said. “For example, when, you know, Inua Ellams talks about his identity, we then break up all the people into small groups where they get to talk about their identities and share across schools.”

Likewise, Block said the Board has also allocated time for open mic discussions, permitting students to discuss topics of interest.

“Young people are able to talk about issues that are on their mind, things they’re seeing in their school, whatever they want to share with the whole group that’s in attendance,” Block said.

Armaan Raj (‘26), a member of the Board of Directors, said the Board also hopes to implement an activity that helps conference attendees understand other people’s perspectives in depth. Raj said the activity helps students retell others’ stories from their own standpoints.

“If I were to say a story to you and then you were to repeat it back, you would repeat it in the ‘I’ perspective,” Raj said. “It kind of allows me to relive that experience and accept it as my own, and I think it’s just a really reassuring activity that we’ve learned how to do.”

Raj also said he encourages students to participate regardless of their prior experience with social justice work.

“It’s not like a really heavy commitment until we get closer to the date,” Raj said. “It’s just really important to make that change so I think I encourage anyone to apply no matter what grade you’re in.”

Block said board members ultimately plan the conference so that students can make genuine connections with other participants.

“ASL students often talk about how being at ASL, you can feel a bit disconnected from the rest of London, and when you bring people together, you discover kind of commonality and humanity,” Block said.

Moreover, Lamberton said preparing for the conference has taught her the necessity of working together, especially when dealing with ongoing societal issues.

“Working with my peers from Westminster Academy and even ASL and hearing their own testimonies of things in the world that bother them made me really think about the fact that, you know, we’re all kind of having a difficult challenge [dealing with the different societal issues], and we just, we really just need to try a bit harder to support each other,” Lamberton said.

Block also said he hopes students leave the conference feeling “braver about stepping outside of the boundaries of our community.”

“I hope they… leave the conference more optimistic and feeling more empowered about the impact that they can make on the world, knowing that there are other people in the world that share their feelings and also want to make a change,” Block said.

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About the Contributor
Meher Sareen, Reporter
Meher Sareen ('27) is a Reporter for The Standard in Journalistic Writing.

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