April 11, 2017

Finding ways to change the world

Werklund School of Education brings students, teachers and community leaders together to discuss challenges facing youth today
Youth leadership
Youth leadership

What happens when junior and senior high school students, from different schools and different backgrounds and with different interests spend a Saturday together and are challenged to find ways that teens can change the world around them?

They come up with some pretty amazing ideas.

Last fall, the Werklund School of Education invited students from 20 schools to join teachers and community leaders to spend a day discussing the challenges youth face today and to consider ways to make a difference—really make a difference—in their communities.

Each school group identified actions that had the potential to have an impact on their schools and communities.  What they decided to do was up to them.  

And what they came up with?  It was life-changing, not just for the students themselves, but for the people around them.

Last week, the student groups came back together to share and discuss the social action initiatives they each undertook.  While some projects are underway, others are in progress or development.

“It is exciting to see youth taking action in service of others, says Sharon Friesen (BEd'86, MEd'91, PhD'00), Vice Dean of the Werklund School.  “The various initiatives these youth undertook brought about change in their communities.”

“When students take action at the local level, in schools or their communities, they build efficacy, agency and confidence to affect change. Providing opportunities to come together to learn together and share strategies for success is vital for all leaders, including youth leaders.” 

At the recent event, the students were asked to present their projects, and to discuss the key learnings they took from leading the various activities.  

Following lunch, they set to work to create ‘thought pieces’ – visual art, diagrams, written word, performance, media-based pieces – that represent their ideas on ‘youth as agents of social change’.

“While we are in the process of wrapping up this year’s youth initiatives, we are already planning for the WSE Youth Forum in Fall 2017,” says Friesen.  “The schools that participated this year, along with new schools, will once again be invited to participate in the WSE Youth Forum 2017-18.”