The following post was written by Nasirah and Malachi, 2019 Global Youth Leadership Summit Participants from Washington, DC. Check out their experience at the Summit, and how they plan to#innovateforinclusion in their community!
My name is Malachi and I went to the Global Youth Summit in Abu Dhabi to become a better leader. I wanted to go to the Summit to make new friends, be a part of a movement, and learn how to become a better role model. I went to the Global Youth Leadership Summit so I could learn more about things that I am passionate about. It’s important that everyone feels included and that no one feels like an outcast. It’s also important that people can be open with their feelings and everyone gets the respect they deserve. Also, I wanted to see what it was like in another environment because I have been in DC for most of my life. I wanted to see how other people interact outside of DC.
I learned so much about leadership through this experience. I gained more confidence and learned that people want to hear what I have to say. I learned how to speak up for other people with disabilities. I also learned about communication and that there are many ways to communicate. It is important to be patient and respect everyone’s voice. The voice of youth is just as important as the voice of adults. One of the workshops I we attended taught us to be patient, listen, and use problem solving skills and teamwork to get a job done.
I also learned a lot about people from other countries. First, I thought it was amazing that everyone from other countries knew their own language, but also knew how to speak English. I also didn’t expect my friends from Macau to know so much about American culture, including knowing about the NBA. At the Cultural Night, I learned that everyone knew American music. This made me realize that anyone can have fun listening and dancing to music together. I wish I knew more about other cultures the way my friends did. Maybe someday we will learn more about different cultures in American high schools like my friends from other countries do. I think knowledge of other cultures should be taught in class. Also, it was cool that, despite our differences, we were also very similar. We even found out that everyone in my Home Group played at least one musical instrument.
During the Summit, I realized how passionate everyone around me was about inclusion. I realized this on the last day when I was saying goodbye to everyone. I had just met them one week earlier but it felt like I knew them my whole life. I am confident the people I met at the Summit will be my friends for a lifetime. I now have friends across the world, from Kansas City to Zimbabwe. The most impactful moment of this experience was when I said good bye. I realized I was fighting back tears because I was saying good bye to close friends I was not ready to leave. We all knew we experienced something special that week that would change us. We made lifelong friendships and bonds that were formed out of a desire to make this world a better place.
My experiences in Abu Dhabi changed the way I understand people with intellectual disabilities. I learned that people with intellectual disabilities have a lot to say and that not enough people listen. Some of my friends shared that they experienced bullying and didn’t like being separated from the rest of their school. Some of my friends felt like people treated them like babies. Like all teenagers, young adults with intellectual disabilities want freedom and a chance to learn and experience life like everyone else.
The 2019 Global Youth Leadership Summit was supported through partnerships with The Lane Family, Kantar, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, The Samuel Family Foundation, and the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education. Learn more about the other participants of the Global Youth Leadership Summit at sogyls2019ad.org/participants.