By Chantelle Archambault, August 10th, 2017 in
The theme of International Youth Day 2017 is “Youth Building Peace”. In honour of this year’s International Youth Day on August 12, we spoke with our summer students about their dedication to inclusivity, social justice, and peace.
Meet our summer students
Nikki is studying biomedical and is interested in addressing stigma related to her future career path in public health. She believes public health is underrepresented and is attracted to its wider accessibility.
Noor enjoys working in an inclusive, intersectional, equity-based organization with strong anti-oppression principles that align with her own value system.
As a queer individual, Chelsea has always been interested in the dynamics of social oppression and privilege and the study of HIV/AIDS, which she believes has played an important role in Western LGBTQ history. She enjoys learning how to approach complex issues with curiosity and mobilize resources to address them.
Why is social justice important to you?
If members of a society don’t feel safe there, that society isn’t successful. I want to use whatever voice I have to speak out against injustices, because if we don’t, who will?
I think that every person who is born has the right to opportunities access to their needs being met equitably. Everyone deserves the opportunity to flourish into who they want to be.
We tend to try to mask the injustice that is going on. Social justice brings those issues back to the forefront and prioritizes the lives of all individuals based on their intrinsic value as people.
How do you think young people are making the world a more just and peaceful place?
Young people have an innovative mindset and they’re willing to question the ideologies of the generations that came before them, which means they’re the ones who can make change.
New technology gives us access to information from all over the world. We’ve been able to educate ourselves and broaden our mindsets to think critically about what we’re told in the media. There’s a movement of change not just for ourselves but in an intergenerational context; we’re talking to our parents or community members or the village that raised us trying to reach out and make that change happen, even if it’s one person at a time.
What changes would you like to see in the community and the world to allow young people to get more involved?
I’d like to see opportunities for young people not just based on a resume or interview skills. I’d like to have a volunteer-run or peer-led space where young people can have access to learning the skills they need and can give back through their own teaching rather than paying for access to those skills.
We need to break down the barriers to access to information, whether that’s the financial strains, the inability to access the internet, the inability to go to school because of your gender or your sex, or the dense language and legalese that separates us from the power structures that are in place. We need to stop information from being so exclusive so we can all participate in a democratic society.
What advice would you give to young people who want to make a difference in the world?
Focus on what you can do and don’t let what you can’t do hold you back.
Small things make a huge difference. Your actions have a ripple effect.
Firstly, be a go-getter. The worst thing that can happen if you try something or apply somewhere is that people say no and you’re in the same place that you started.
Secondly, remember that no difference is too small. You may not make a difference in a hundred people’s lives, but if you’ve made a difference in one person’s life, it’s just as significant.
Be self-aware. You can’t begin to create change or educate yourself about what’s happening if you don’t know where you are in the world.
Believe in your ability to form opinions and make decisions. Think critically and question the accepted views of the world.
Prioritize treating other people with respect. Listen to the stories of the people around you empathize with what they have to share. We’re already starting to come together and see art and hear poetry from people all over the world, and it’s helping; I’m optimistic for the future.