“Participating in the Youth Forum Switzerland was a powerful, inspiring experience that has left me feeling motivated to make a difference in the world”.

The sixth annual Youth Forum Switzerland (YFS) welcomed over 850 students from 24 schools and more than 40 speakers engaging in panel discussions centred on how youth can have an impact in the world. Hosted at the International School of Zug and Luzern, ICS was well represented by a delegation of 15 students from Grades 9 to 12, eager to connect with like-minded people and have a voice in global issues. The attendees were also invited to explore the YFS Art Festival with interactive elements, including the opportunity to work with a local artist on a collaborative piece of art for YFS 2023. Two of our Visual Arts students’ works were selected to be exhibited at the Festival, which carried the theme “Dreams”.

The YFS kicked off with an inspiring keynote address by Jade Hameister OAM, who as a teen skier, completed the gruelling ‘Polar Hat Trick,’ becoming the youngest woman in history to complete the unsupported and unassisted 550km crossing of the Greenland icecap, on crampons and skis. She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to Polar Exploration in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Ms Hameister presented riveting details and images of the challenging conditions she faced on her expeditions. She emphasised that “being brave is a habit” and urged students to “learn to thrive on challenges, adversity, tough times, and setbacks”. Ms Hameister stressed that as young people, “we need to strive to be role models in courageous living”, and to continue to “explore our edges”. She opined that “doing really hard stuff shows you that you have this latent potential you didn’t realise, and that you can go further than you ever believed”.

Presenting on the topic of ‘Water: The Source of Life’ was guest speaker Ernst Bromeis, author of Every Drop Counts - Swimming for the right to water, and founder of Das Blaue Wunder (blue miracle), a Switzerland-based foundation. Co-presenter on the panel was Shabbir Esmaël, a Mauritian who is leading the Ocean Codes Project and is pioneering the mapping of the microbial communities in oceans using eDNA. During the TED-style talk the leading water experts discussed water as a critical resource that many take for granted. They provided details on how accessing potable water is a daily struggle for some communities around the world; for others, the need for a sustainable ocean is critical to their livelihood. ICS pupils were absorbed in the conversation that was followed by a Q & A.

Our students were keen to engage in the panel session themed ‘Youth involvement in addressing inequities in politics’. The panellists included Swiss Diplomat Markus Reubi, who is responsible for coordinating sustainable development at the foreign policy level, and Ashleigh Streeter-Jones, described by Forbes magazine as a “youthful visionary”, who serves as CEO of Raise Our Voice Australia, an organisation amplifying the voices of young women and non-binary people in policy and politics. The discussions delved into how youth can have an impact in the world of politics and why it is crucial for their voices to be heard. The importance of Civic education in schools was emphasised, along with the fact that as a generation, Gen Z has been able to access more information and misinformation about politics than ever before, with social media a constant presence.

Accenting the meetings was the YFS Student Experience, which provided many interactive elements including fun activities such as bracelet making, and robotic demonstrations. A YFS Gamification team organised various games such as an SDG Quiz and an SDG Escape Box. ICS students came away energised, with Grade 9 classmate Nicholas stating the event has “made me realize the impact that young people can have and has ignited a desire within me to create awareness regarding important topics and inspire others to also take action towards creating positive change”.

After several years of online sessions, the enthusiasm was evident in participants being able to meet in-person to collaborate and connect. The talks were interspersed with video clips of youngsters who had previously attended the World Economic Forum in Davos. In fact, a number of the guest speakers were following up their participation at YFS with meetings at the WEF.

Our delegates appreciated the opportunity to apply their learning, discover new concepts, and meet a variety of professionals and youth leaders. Also, we congratulate our Grade 11 and Grade 12 creative talents for their impressive artwork and the strong ICS representation at this year's YFS Art Festival. The experience was summed up by Grade 12 student Vedant as, “one of the best experiences for me as a student. Learning about such a diverse range of topics and issues whilst getting the opportunity to be able to interact with different students and guest speakers was extremely insightful and inspiring”.

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