2nd Empowering Young Voices Congress: ‘I can, I choose, I achieve’

SEK Education Group held the second day of the 2nd Empowering Young Voices for a Sustainable Future event following several inspiring talks and learning itineraries around the centre of Madrid. During this second day young people took the floor to showcase innovative solutions to real situations based on the learning methodology of the case method.

“It is essential to empower young people to give them a voice on the issues that concern them. We only listen to adults and you young people don’t feel taken into account, even though we’re talking about your future. You are concerned about the sustainability of the planet, the survival of species, mental health, nutrition, the culture of recycling, the care of resources to reuse them and not to deplete them. Today you have the floor.” With these words, Maricruz Lagar, general director of SEK International Schools, welcomed the 56 students from SEK schools participating in the conference.

With this statement of principles, the students began their presentations in with teamwork, collaboration, active listening and respect for others.

SEK-Catalunya chose to analyse the issues arising from climate change, the high temperatures recorded and the consequent drought for its environmental challenge. Their ingenious solution was to create some inverted umbrellas, responsible for collecting and filtering rainwater, and taking it to an underground tank from which water would be drawn to irrigate gardens.

On the other hand, in terms of the social challenge, the problem studied was the misuse of screens: lack of interest and motivation, addictions, loneliness. The solution, creating spaces with numerous activities designed for socialising, sharing interests and having fun without using electronic devices.

SEK-Ciudalcampo addressed mental health, anxiety and stress in teenagers and young people. For this global issue, the students proposed creating a space in all schools, a de-stressing room where talks can be given, specialists can be consulted, yoga can be practised or simply a place to be alone and calm. In terms of the social challenge, the protagonists were the abused and abandoned animals. The students proposed creating a computer application where the offer of dog walkers, establishments for their care, and private pet carers are gathered. Furthermore, they propose to establish collaboration with various administrations for the creation of official premises dedicated to these purposes in various cities. The result will be twofold: ending the mistreatment and abandonment of animals and reducing unemployment among people, with the creation of new jobs.

In the environmental field, SEK-Atlántico faced the Ence Challenge, the fight against a pulp factory that pollutes the Aurosa River and to which 60 years of extension were given before its dismantling and for which they have offered solutions based on dialogue, relocation or the study of alternatives. On their part, in their social challenge, they have created the ‘Patrulla ropera’, a solution for lost unlabelled uniforms in which a ‘circular economy system’ is established, with counting and inventory of garments and free supply and demand according to needs.

SEK-Alborán took care of the renaturalisation of the environment, eliminating invasive species, understanding the local natural environment, removing what is not native, and informing, raising awareness and making nature felt through the planting of vegetable gardens or the establishment of protected areas. In the social sphere, SEK-Alborán proposes to organise – in collaboration with entities such as Argar or Red Cross – workshops for children and the elderly with long-term hospitalisation or stays in residences, to combat loneliness and decline and depression.

SEK-El Castillo addressed the issue of bullying and its sociological repercussions. The proposal for assistance with the solution is found on an anonymous digital platform where, among other elements, tools for overcoming, individual talks, psychological guidance and of the type that is needed, or testimonies of cases are offered. In terms of the environmental challenge, the students addressed the increase in waste and food wastage. Initially, they focused on bread waste in the school canteen and organised a count of what goes to waste and a measurement of what is eaten. From there, they established an awareness and self-control campaign among teachers and students.

On the other hand, SEK-Dublin combined a social and environmental problem and created a pilot programme to repopulate Ireland with indigenous species and a comprehensive pollination programme in which bees are restored as the main actors of change.

Finally, the guest school, Colegio San José de las Vegas, from Colombia, presented a socio-environmental project on circular economy. Reusing clothes that are no longer wanted, not needed or in poor condition to avoid pollution in the form of waste or water expenditure in the manufacture of new garments. For this, they created a website where you can donate clothes, buy items, garments made from other recycled garments or dresses for dolls, or locate companies that recycle this material and make clothes with it.

Following a brief break, Marc Prensky, founder of The Global Institute for Empowerment, Accomplishment & Impact by Young People, was in charge of ending the day with an interactive talk with the students.

In his view, learning should not be the goal of young people (or their school). Empowerment, achievement and impact should be the goals.   Learning is a means: we learn to achieve. Today, with the capabilities that young generations have, “you should start achieving immediately, and not spend your most energetic years just learning in advance”.

For Prensky, the definition of being empowered is ‘I can, I choose, I achieve’. From my actions, I see a positive impact and results in the real world.

This situation will occur in an empowerment hub, whose creation is Mark Prensky’s goal for next year, “we will connect people who care about similar things, so they can meet, connect and form teams.”

At the 9th Felipe Segovia Symposium. “Impactful learning experiences”

On the third and final day of the congress, the participating students also played a leading role in the 9th Felipe Segovia Symposium.

After further inspiring talks and various workshops, and as an impactful learning experience, the students were in charge of closing the Felipe Segovia Symposium, with the presentation of what this congress has meant for them in reference to the SEK Competency Profile.

  • Personal transformation: adaptation; stepping out of comfort zone; getting to know people and families; respect; trust; sharing and accepting different opinions.
  • Relational Transformation: new links; team problem solving; socialisation; growth; empathy.
  • Knowledge transformation:  active listening; creating solutions with imagination; reflecting on issues that affect everyone.
  • Transformation for Sustainability: our actions affect our environment; learning and listening; openness to the world to work together; transforming ideas and realities
  • Learning for transformation: creativity; critical thinking; self-learning; collaborate and share; harmony; autonomy; sustainable future.
  • According to the students themselves, with their congress “we have initiated action and our voice must be heard by those who make decisions that affect our future”.

Thus began another important celebration for SEK Education Group, the SEK Day.

SEK Education Group has held the 2nd Congress Empowering Young Voices for a Sustainable Future from 10 to 13 November at the Castellana and Villafranca campuses of Camilo José Cela University, and featured the participation of 56 students from SEK-El Castillo, SEK-Ciudalcampo, SEK-Santa Isabel, SEK-Alborán, SEK-Atlántico, SEK-Catalunya, SEK-Dublin and San José de las Vegas School in Colombia.

This event has primarily aimed to listen to and empower the voices of the younger generation to create a more sustainable future following the development goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, goals that seek equality among people, to protect the planet and ensure prosperity as part of a new sustainable development agenda. A new global social contract that leaves no one behind.