To All Youth (like me!):
Hello, my name is Neha Gupta and I am a 16-year old high school student. I haven’t talked much about myself as a person on my blog, so allow me to give you some background. I am a Grade 11 student from Hamilton, Ontario. I consider myself to be an academic, but have an irreplaceable love for competitive sports like running and swimming. I am an attentive student, but get bored quite easily and often jump between subjects. I love and seek a challenge at all times, but can sometimes find large changes daunting. I look to voice my opinion wherever I can in hopes of creating a better community and being a catalyst for change, but find equal pleasure in listening to others as stories can be powerful.
Now, you may have thought that sharing with you much of what I said was unnecessary, and in some instances I can agree. However, I want you to know some aspects of me that provide a human side of who I am in the time I can share with you. Afterall, these are the aspects of youth and students that are easy to lose sight of.
It’s really not easy being a student. With the ever growing popularity of social media, youth feel an added struggle to comply, to fit in. Bullying and mental health illnesses have become a larger battle to fight. Still every child wants to do well, every child is yearning to learn. Unfortunately, not all have the means. Some witness poverty which forbids them from having a healthy meal or accessing technology. Some are not fortunate like I am to have parents who are their biggest cheerleaders. Students can struggle with low self esteem and a low sense of belonging. And the problem is not only that these challenges exist, but that they are invisible. There are some invisible barriers like cultural belief, sexual orientation – these are especially hard for students to address alone.
The more conversations we have, and these are oftentimes difficult conversations with ourselves or others, the more positive action. The capacity we have to elevate each other towards better understanding, unity and equal platforms often goes unnoticed. And in this sense, elevating each other means potential for progress at every turn, and working with the constant belief that the world can be better than it is now. Such a mindset is not so much a representation of the platforms that the global population is sitting on, but more so the power we all have to elevate others, to help others rise above the barriers standing in their way.
It is important that privilege is recognized, that individual power to influence is realized and that us, youth, understand there is no other way around this reality. All that WE really need is one common determination in favour of a common goal. WE have collectively risen to the occasion, time and time again, to prove our competency, conviction and willingness to participate in a global movement. You should be proud, WE should be proud for standing against the norm and daring to fight for change. But, our journey in so many ways has just begun. Recognizing a threat is less than half the battle, collaboratively combatting common barriers is a truly global struggle.
2020 was chaotic, and 2021 has just begun. Though through the chaos that defined 2020, progress was achieved everywhere. Society learned the value of human connection, we learned to say “enough is enough”, we collaborated and revolutionized the idea of transcending borders. Now, it’s 2021.
We don’t have to create a new reality, we just have to stop resisting the one that we actually live in.
Over the past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to share my words with others regarding youth power and student identity. Feeling ‘listened to’ is one of the irreplaceable feelings of this world for me, and I was grateful for both the administrative staff at my school board (December 2nd 2020, HWDSB Identity Address) and conference attendees (January 13th 2021, Change The Way Virtual Conference) for letting me speak.
Youth are the future. Let’s shape a great one.