The University of Toledo hosted Youth Nations, an inaugural global leadership conference, in late July.
The weeklong camp for rising high school seniors was designed to bolster confidence in leadership and presentation skills while igniting passion for global issues. Students were invited to participate based on academic standing.
Students from nine states competed in persuasive presentation competitions. They learned about complex global issues, developed leadership skills, and worked in groups to develop and present problem-solving plans.
“When we conceived of Youth Nations, we wanted to provide students with enriching leadership opportunities and challenge them to tackle some of the most pressing issues that face our world. We invited national speakers so students could connect with people who have impacted their respective industries and devoted their lives to addressing issues that have a broader social impact,” said Dr. Lakeesha Ransom, dean of the UT Jesup Scott Honors College. “We wanted them to have an enjoyable experience and to connect with others who have similar academic aspirations. We wanted to get them thinking about broad global topics and how they can take action to address those issues.”
Youth Nations hosted 102 participants, divided into 18 groups, with five to seven students per team. Students were grouped into six countries and explored the issues of human trafficking, international cyber security, or power and fuel sustainability.
“Overall, it was a great success. I had two main goals for the event: that it would be a great experience and memory linked to UT’s campus for these students. I also wanted the students to leave with a global perspective and have ideas how they could make a difference in the world,” said Paulette Bongratz, Youth Nations coordinator.
The groups competed in several presentation rounds, and the top three teams advanced to the final round.
Team Mexico, representing the issue of power and fuel sustainability, won the overall competition. Each student was awarded a renewable $6,500 UT Honors Award and a renewable $3,000 Youth Nations Scholarship, sufficient to cover tuition and fees for four years.
Presentation judges included UT faculty and staff.
“The winning team had great content and a solid understanding of what they were presenting,” Bongratz said. “We asked the students to think of their assigned country as their own; they took that suggestion and ran with it. They were very passionate about their presentations.”
Team Mexico members were Alexa Encheff from Millbury, Ohio; Nathan Ford from Maryville, Tenn.; Daniel Katz from Haddonfield, N.J.; Abigail Moore from Maumee, Ohio; Kayla Neff from Lima, Ohio; Gabriel Scarlett from Maumee, Ohio; and Anthony Villandre from Anthem, Ariz.