Breck Junior reflects on International Congress of Youth Voices experiences

Stacy Glaus

Malcolm Yearby '20 was selected to be a member of the inaugural International Congress of Youth Voices. After being nominated by a Breck faculty member, he was selected for his commitment to leadership and social justice and passion and eloquence as a writer. According to their website, the Congress brought together nearly 100 students, ages 16 to 20, from around the world to learn with and from accomplished writers, activists, and elected officials. Youth delegates came to us from the United States, Iraq, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Syria, Ireland, Australia, Iceland, Burundi, Honduras, Cuba, Denmark, Venezuela, Zambia, and Nepal. He reflects on his experience in this latest post:

This past August, I was invited to the International Congress of Youth Voices, a three-day conference held in San Francisco, California. In its inaugural year, the ICYV was created by Dave Eggers, award-winning editor and author of the best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, with the intention of uniting and amplifying voices of young activists. Eggers invited approximately 100 students between the ages 16-20, nationally and internationally, who exemplified leadership and advocacy in their own communities and eloquence as writers.

Throughout the weekend, Eggers incorporated multiple workshops and seminars designed to generate collaboration and amplify the momentous voices of the youth, bringing light and possible solutions to the countless social justice and political issues around the world. Eggers also invited influential figures in today’s society that would provide inspiration and insight to our passions of advocacy and strides for change: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, Brian Yorkey, an American playwright and creator of the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, John Lewis, a Georgian politician and civil rights leader, and many others. Throughout the weekend, I was granted the opportunity to be surrounded by such passionate people from diverse backgrounds. Each delegate had an independent drive for change that was beyond commendable.

Being surrounded by such amazing people from all around the world provided me with a fresh, new perspective on the issues in the world and an intuitive understanding on how to truly advocate for and become a reflection of the change I want to see in my community. The amount of energy and passion in the room was powerful and momentous; each delegate possessed a bold glow of competence and passion causing them to inadvertently emerge from the mass, yet simultaneously unite with all other delegates under the common interest of advocacy for change and leadership. Being surrounded by such drive and passion assisted me in realizing the essential keys to leadership. Each delegate exemplified such a tremendous and influential amount of leadership in the advocacy of their own cause, such that one could only admire. Their drive and motivation contributes to the impact each delegate has on the society and the people they encounter. However, curious and in awe, I began to wonder what induces such notable leadership and personal drive and whether my personal influence was just as impactful. Through the course of the weekend, having encountered such phenomenal people, I discovered the element to prime leadership: passion. I realized that none of the delegates sought out the role of leadership itself with having no agenda. Instead, they prioritized their passion for change and activism. Their goals were not to seek leadership or ascendancy, but to pursue their passions, affect as many people as possible with their positive influence, and voice the change they eagerly want to see in the world. Their intentions were whole, pure, and evolved around the greater good of humanity as a whole. All in all, I learned that the overarching key to leadership is passion; pursuing something that evokes such strong enthusiasm and personal drive can create an inevitable prominence that impacts others in influential ways.

Given the takeaways I learned from the International Congress of Youth Voices, I now continue to advocate for diversity. I have been accepted into numerous leadership roles in the Breck community that revolves around diversity and inclusion of all people: the Student Diversity and Inclusion Council (SDIC) and Student Diversity and Leadership Council (SDLC). In fact, I am one of six students who have been chosen to attend the Student Diversity and Leadership Conference, an annual multiracial and multicultural gathering of student leaders (grades 9-12) from across the United States. I was also granted the opportunity to lead Race in America, one of Breck’s many student body clubs that discuss current controversial events and the role of race in today’s society. Lastly, I am an active supporter and pending board member of Youthprise, an intermediary organization whose goal is to minimize socioeconomic and racial disparities that are active amongst Minnesota’s youth. In essence, since ICYV, I have learned the significance of advocacy, passion, and leadership and strive to impact my communities in a way that reflects the change I want to produce. Diversity and advocating for the disadvantaged are passions of mine and I will continue to pursue them, hoping to influence change and motivate other youth to find their voice within their passions and prove that remolding society through equitable change is tangible. I hope that my drive, passion, and advocacy serves as the compound effect amongst the youth, activating the dormant and potentially momentous voices of the youth through my personal leadership and advocacy of passion.

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