Glenlyon Norfolk students seek to improve our world, one kid at a time

Youth conference promises to inspire Greater Victoria young people

Leah Kuzmuk and Conor Hannigan are the co-chairs of Change Conference 2012

Leah Kuzmuk and Conor Hannigan are the co-chairs of Change Conference 2012

Youthful exuberance will be on full display this weekend at Glenlyon Norfolk School.

The middle and senior school campus on Bank Street is playing host to the annual Change Conference, a gathering of young people from southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

This year’s theme, Global Passion – Local Action, focuses on making a positive difference at an international level by getting involved in community initiatives.

“That stemmed from the idea of (the organizing committee) being passionate about things that we see on a global scale a lot of the time, but not necessarily having the power to do that at this point,” said committee co-chair Conor Hannigan, a Grade 12 student at GNS.

“Local action is, in a sense, the way to show global passion.”

Hannigan hopes to see close to 80 students at the conference, which happens Friday (Feb. 24) and Saturday.

“There’s a lot of youth in Victoria who are inspired or encouraged about the idea of getting involved with change, but they don’t necessarily know how to start,” he said. “That’s the great thing about our conference.”

Delegates will attend workshops, listen to guest speakers and work on art projects over the course of the two days.

On Saturday they will spend the afternoon engaged in one of three community service initiatives. Some will pitch in at Woodwynn Farms in Central Saanich while others will serve food at the Out of the Rain Youth Shelter in Victoria. A third group will visit Oak Bay’s Cattle Point to assist with a Garry Oak restoration project.

“In the past (the conference) has been a really great opportunity for youth. It’s been inspiring, it’s been fun, but we’ve never really come out with an end product from it,” Hannigan said.

“It’s been a thought process, but we’ve never actually done anything tangible.”

This year’s keynote speaker is Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian journalist turned humanitarian who was abducted in 2008 while on assignment in Somalia and held captive for 15 months. Once free, she became an advocate for women’s rights and founded the Global Enrichment Foundation to help the Somali people through education and economic initiatives.

Lindhout’s presentation is open to the public and takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and are available at the school, 801 Bank St.

The entire weekend is student-driven, though they do receive some guidance from teachers.

“It is really neat to see kids from different interests coming together with a common goal of producing a conference for other students to help them feel empowered,” said Gina Simpson, one of the organizing committee’s teacher-sponsors.

And though the content may sound serious, Hannigan promises it will be a lot of fun.

“I hope they enjoy it, because that’s one of the main reasons that we have this conference every year.”

Onsite registration for the conference starts at 5:15 p.m. Friday. The conference is open to any youth between Grade 8 and 12. Cost is $30.

For more information, visit changeconference2012.com.

reporter@vicnews.com