On January 31st, five students participated in the 2021 Upper School Student SDG Summit hosted by Envoys. Students participated in discussions and brainstorming sessions related to common global issues while keeping in mind sustainable development goals. Read on below for their shared experience.
Mary Blake Zeron ’21
At the SDG summit, I had the opportunity of hearing Luis Garcia de Brigard speak. He brought up this idea that in solving today’s problems, we might be creating tomorrow’s battles. With this in mind, I have a new lens to look through when brainstorming ideas or thinking about global challenges. Brigard made a point to emphasize the fact that we are more interconnected than ever. In the past, a problem might have only effected a town or neighborhood, but now, those same problems have a much larger and more significant impact. By extension, our solutions carry more weight. Problems need to be presented in a more simple and accessible manner to build a greater understanding of the massive effect of a simple everyday task, such as washing plastic before recycling it.
Real change comes from individual sacrifice. The way we present these big scale problems and the lenses we choose to view them through have a significant impact on the trajectory of positive change.
Fahad Shahbaz ’22
Attending the SDG Summit was a fascinating experience. We started off with the general introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals and its role to achieve a better future for everyone. All the participants were divided into short groups and were assigned four random SDG’s. Then during this 2-day summit we had intensive discussions and debates about the SDG’s and our role as youth in expediting it’s influence around the world.
What made this Summit unique was the student power. We ourselves devised different strategies and participated in the debates on behalf of our groups. At the end, each group was supposed to make a digital campaign to raise awareness about a particular issue. My group talked about two of the significant SDG’s that go hand-in hand, Quality Education and Reduced Inequalities. We advocated for the dire need of quality education for all, despite race, gender, abilities, socioeconomic status, and geographical location. We received a great amount of appreciation from our facilitators. It was interesting to hear from other groups too. Some of them ended up making official websites to support their campaigns. It was really impressive. I was happy to be a part of these passionate young individuals who genuinely want to create a positive impact in their communities.
Jean Chun ’22
Through the 2021 SDG Summit, I was able to familiarize myself with the 17 sustainable development goals and consider what I can do to help further them. The guest speaker for my group was Manjula Dissanayake, the founder of Educate Lanka Foundation, which seeks to enhance the quality of education in impoverished communities. He shared that, after a car accident that forced him to truly reflect on his goals, he gave up a profitable career in banking to establish this non-profit. My greatest take-away was his response to my question about whether he has had any doubts along the way, and how he combated them. He replied that, while the doubts never fully disappear, his passion for education and helping others allows him to keep going. Listening to his response helped me realize that ultimately, it is not my self-interest but my concern for the greater community that will drive me to overcome great challenges.
Another key takeaway was his advice to use school as a “lab” to experiment and find out what I feel passionate about. Lastly, while developing a website to raise awareness of racial injustice in the US, I was struck by how easily one could advocate for a cause they cared about; all it took was initiative, brainstorming, and an hour of collaboration to put together the foundation of an educational website. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the summit and realize my potential to make a difference in the world.
Isha Rao ’22
The SDG Summit was an event that allowed many students to gather and share their ideas about ways we can improve our world and its communities. We discussed the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and how they were all interconnected and affect one another. We were divided up into small groups to focus more specifically on four SDG’s and think about how they were affected by COVID-19 and how they could be affected by some of the important upcoming ideas and policies in the headlines. Each group culminated their work by creating a final project focused on one to two SDG’s which developed an idea that could be used in a community or part of the world to help improve that community for that specific sustainable development goal.
We also attended a speaker presentation regarding our specific goals and learned how people are making big impacts in their own communities dedicating their work to one or more of the sustainable development goals. The debates we had in our big groups were very informative and inspiring, because we heard about and discussed so many ways we can make our world better and improve our social progress index, and how we can create that change ourselves by starting in our own communities.
Neha Jampala ’23
The SDG Summit helped me delve into Goals 8, 11, 15, and 16 by giving me a space to collaborate and discuss with like-minded peers about topics which are incredibly relevant and important to address. Assigning everyone to subgroups was very effective as we were able to synthesize our ideas on the Jamboard which we later discussed in the open debate. I personally really enjoyed the structuring of the summit, although at times it felt a bit limiting time-wise. To address the assigned goals, my group created a Carbon Tax project that is applicable to local Massachusetts communities. Upon hearing other groups’ solutions, I was able to recognize the fact that any change first starts small – and if properly and passionately executed – it will have the potential to scale out much larger.
I hope that this mindset could be brought into the CSGC board, expressed as a form of community collaboration. I would 8/10 recommend this summit to another peer (considering the Zoom setting) and look forward to attending it again or something similar hopefully in person next year as well.