By Angela McLean
It’s already April, which means only three more months until July and SUMMER BREAK! If you’re like me, you’re already thinking about what you want to do. Here’s something to add to your list – taking action. This summer, Me to We’s Take Action Academy is calling youth in the US and Canada to come, learn and have fun.
There are eight academies in North America this year, including locations in Ontario, Quebec, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, New Brunswick, California (US) and Arizona (US). The idea is to give participants, aged nine to 21, the opportunity to learn leadership skills, explore pressing global issues and volunteer in the local community – all within a fun and friendly environment. It is hoped that this experience will help the participants take their place within a worldwide social movement of globally-conscious young people.
THE MAGAZINE had the chance to speak with Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children and Me to We, about the Academy.
Why was Take Action Academy started?
I know the courage it takes to stand up for what you believe in. I also know that being supported by others who share your same beliefs has a tremendous impact on your journey. When my brother, Marc, and I were starting out as young activists in our schools and communities, there were few leadership resources and opportunities available to us. We’ve made this a priority in our work and through Me to We, we’ve been able to provide many young leaders with the tools and resources needed to be leaders in their own communities. Take Action Academy is one of these resources, bringing together like-minded youth and providing them with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to become global citizens and change-makers in their own neighbourhoods and around the world.
What do you want your participants to learn at Take Action Academy?
Our ultimate hope is that each young leader will turn their passion into action, extending beyond their week at Academy. Through workshops, activities and leadership training, we hope that these leaders will begin to think critically about issues and use their leadership skills to bring about change. I hope that they will build connections and learn from the facilitators who have travelled to dozens of countries and take their place alongside an army of globally-conscious young people.
What kinds of activities will the participants partake in?
One thing most participants quickly discover is that there is truly no average day at the Academy. Each day brings exciting adventures and opportunities just as each leadership academy offers its own unique activities, but the focus always remains on this core value: building strong leaders who are passionate about social justice. At Academy, youth spend their week learning leadership skills, exploring pressing global issues, volunteering in the local community, building life-long friendships and taking their place within a worldwide social movement of globally-conscious young people.
Each group gets to do a hands-on volunteer experience in a local community. What kinds of experiences do they participate in?
One of my favourite components of Academy is the "Take Action Day" where individuals get to do a hands-on volunteer experience in the local community. During this day-long event, each participant is matched with organizations from all over the city in which the Academy is located, giving them the opportunity to put their newly developed leadership skills into practice. This is an incredible experience to learn from others in the community who have made social justice a priority and an opportunity to first learn about issues, then actually roll up our sleeves and volunteer, and channel that experience throughout the rest of the week. Past placements have covered areas including housing, journalism, food security and environmental issues, and everyone has the opportunity to choose according to their interests and passions.
As they leave the Academy, what change do you see in the participants?
I am so encouraged by each participant who attends Academy because they’ve taken an important step toward making a difference in their school, community and world. They are choosing to help make a better world for us all. There is no such thing as being too young to make a difference and I firmly believe that when given the opportunities, resources and guidance, young people have the power to change the world.
I hope that Academy will help each young leader to discover the issues they are passionate about, empower them to make a change and equip them with the skills to be successful in their campaigns, fundraisers and action plans. Ultimately, I hope that each participant leaves Academy realizing the incredible power they hold to make a difference through their daily actions, big or small, and the impact this can have around the world.
What support can you offer to people who really want to join the Academy but do not have the funds or other means necessary to do so?
We certainly know the impact of Academy and have witnessed its life-changing impact on so many participants. It is my genuine hope that anyone who has the desire to attend also has the ability to attend. It’s for this reason that we offer a large number of bursaries every year to ensure that as many young people as possible have the opportunity to attend. Everyone is deserving of the opportunity to realize the power they hold and to get engaged in the world around them. More information on the bursaries can be found here: http://www.metowe.com/leadership/bursaries.
Thank you, Craig! To read more from Craig, check out our in-depth interview with him here.
For more information on the dates of the Academies taking place this summer and to register, please visit http://www.metowe.com/leadership/take-action.
(Photos and videos via Me to We)