When the news that our team was selected to attend the 2015 IHL Youth Leadership Summit was announced via our Facebook group, I could not believe we had actually made it. Weeks of planning and hard work during our IHL Action Campaign had finally paid off, and we were excited for what was waiting for us in Washington, DC. We wondered about the activities we were going to take part in there and the historical monuments we were going to see, but most importantly we looked forward to meeting other IHL Action Campaign teams from across the nation so that we could learn about their great ideas and successful campaigns.
It was three o’clock in the morning (Pacific Time) when we landed in DC, but none of us seemed a bit tired because we were all filled with excitement. As we exited the plane, the warm and humid weather of Washington, DC welcomed us. We quickly arrived at the hotel and got ready for our first day at the Youth Leadership Summit. As Bryan and Emily led icebreakers and went over the code of conduct, our team immediately made friends with other teams. Everyone was extremely welcoming and out-going. We learned about things other participants were anticipating about the Summit while sharing our own thoughts. That night, we walked around DC and soaked up all the great things that the city has to offer.
After a fantastic first day, we were even more eager to hear the other teams’ presentations and learn about their campaign journeys. It is surprising that, even though we all had the same subtopic options for our campaigns – gender or refugees – each campaign was unique and different from the others. For example, students from Bradley University passed out stickers and did a live stimulation of what it would feel like to be a refugee crossing the border. In contrast, students from Texas made a walk through all by themselves and managed to have it presented at a huge Palestine Festival. Furthermore, the team from Orange County held an Art Gallery event.
Overall, I learned so much through the other presentations and realized how powerful a campaign hosted by high school students can be. My favorite part of the entire Youth Leadership Summit was the reflection period on the last day, where we got to share thoughts about the whole campaign process. Through these engaging discussions, I learned about others’ obstacles and how they overcame them; surprisingly, many of those hardships are similar to the ones my team faced along our journey. I think attending the Youth Leadership Summit not only allowed me to learn more about IHL and others’ ideas for spreading awareness, but it also inspired me to further pursue getting fellow students in my community to be aware of the important social issues around us, even if they are not affected by those issues directly. Yes. The IHL Action Campaign may seem like a simple campaign from a few groups of teenagers, but I saw that the effects of this campaign can last and really hit home for many people.
– Sunny S., IHL Action Campaign Team Member, Los Angeles Region