In mid-November, I had the privilege of attending the Fair Education Alliance Youth Summit, a dynamic event primarily organised by their exceptional Youth Steering Group. This gathering aimed to bring together 70 young individuals from their membership, fostering youth social action within the education sector. Additionally, it sought to empower youth to instigate change in the upcoming election year, emphasising the impact even small actions can have. As a Mission 44 Youth Advisory Board member, I eagerly participated, sharing insights on crucial topics and gaining perspectives from fellow young people across various organisations.
The day commenced with the Youth Steering Group providing an overview of the summit’s objectives, followed by open conversations with attendees about the desired changes and a collective source of inspiration. I engaged in three workshops throughout the day, each contributing significantly to my understanding and engagement.
The initial workshop focused on ‘student mental health’ and was facilitated by ambassadors from #iwill and #BeeWell. Exploring the challenges related to student mental health in schools, it was impactful to collaborate with peers who brought diverse experiences and perspectives to the table. Drawing from my personal struggles, we collectively brainstormed solutions to make substantial changes, aiming for accessible and effective mental health support for all students. A notable point raised by one participant was the pivotal role teachers play as a primary support system for students who cannot access the necessary help. This insight shed light on the interconnected nature of mental health support in schools, highlighting the informal exclusion resulting from underfunded and outdated systems.
The day’s most significant benefit for me was the opportunity to educate myself on topics that I had not explored extensively before. The second workshop, titled ‘Influencing policy makers’ and led by mySociety, revolved around strategies for contacting government officials and instigating change within one’s community—an area where I lacked prior experience. Learning about the basics of government functioning, identifying my Member of Parliament, and understanding how to effectively communicate with them for creating positive change proved to be invaluable insights. This knowledge became particularly relevant with the looming election, underscoring the urgency for youth engagement in contacting MPs, conducting thorough research on political manifestos, and, most crucially, exercising their right to vote.
The insights from the policy-focused workshop seamlessly transitioned into my participation in the third workshop, which delved into the intricacies of becoming a trustee. This session was not only informative but also addressed the common challenge of imposter syndrome, a feeling I had personally grappled with as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and someone who is neurodivergent. The workshop provided practical strategies for overcoming imposter syndrome, introducing new self-affirming language and emphasising the untapped potential and skills that individuals bring to trustee roles and other positions of responsibility.
Reflecting on the entire summit, the experience was nothing short of amazing. The fact that the day was entirely led by young people infused a refreshing energy into the discussions, emphasising the collective drive toward actionable change. Amidst conversations about what should be done, there was a consistent reminder of the importance of individual and collective well-being during these transformative times.
A crucial takeaway from the summit was the significance of having youth voices not merely be a part of discussions but leading them. The future belongs to us, and events like this provide a platform for us to actively shape it. This summit stands as a stellar example of how youth-led initiatives can effectively catalyse change, underscoring the need for more such events that empower and amplify the voices of the younger generation.
Mission 44, Youth Advisory Board Member