Fighting climate change is no easy task. Just ask the students who were at the second VSB Sustainability Conference held Monday, April 28. Over 200 students representing all 18 of Vancouver's secondary schools got up bright and early on the Pro-D Day to attend a jam-packed day at Eric Hamber Secondary in hopes of picking up the skills and knowledge to make their school more sustainable. The entire event was student organized and included another 100 volunteers, district staff, community members and parents.
"One of the things that really sets us the VSB Sustainability Conference apart is the emphasis we put on bringing together all the stakeholders in the VSB to advance sustainability in the district," says Conference Chair and Grade 11 Killarney student Aaron Leung. "That means actively inviting the teachers, administrators, parents, and trustees to take part alongside the students."
One of those trustees this year was Eric Hamber's own Grade 11 student Nick Milum. Milum is the school board's Student Trustee who helped start the day off during opening remarks with an inspirational address that encouraged participants to always give things a shot.
The rest of the morning featured engaging and informative keynote presentations, as well as a panel discussion afterwards with the keynote line-up of Jennie Moore, Elizabeth Sheehan, and the VSB's own alumni, co-founder and chair of the 2013 VSB Sustainability Conference, 2012 Churchill graduate, Tesicca Truong.
A networking and opportunities fair boasting close to 20 organizations in and around the region came next during a re-energizing lunch prepared by the David Thompson and Eric Hamber foods programs, followed by two exciting and educational workshops of the participants' choice from a selection of eleven.
One of the biggest highlights of the day was the planning session at the end. Drawing on everything that they had learned throughout the conference, participants were given just under an hour to brainstorm within in their school groups what they would like to see in their future sustainable schools. The session was graphically facilitated by co-design artists and all the schools will get to keep their drawings once the school board has made copies for its own records.
"Looking through those drawings, there were so many great ideas, and our hope is that they're able to turn some of them into reality through the connections they've made and the resources we've shown are available to them," said Leung.
And there's little reason to doubt the potential of the students. The conference itself is a perfect example. Many of the graphic facilitators and all the volunteers of the day were students coordinated together by a conference planning committee consisting of nine students and one teacher mentor. Alongside Leung were fellow Killarney Grade 11 student Justin Park, Grade 11 Hamber students David Zhang, Tiffany Quon, Josephine Liu, and Grade 12 student Justin Luke, Churchill Grade 10 student Sunny Cui and Grade 12 student Rosemary Chen, David Thompson Grade 12 student Winnie Kwan and Gladstone teacher Susan Ng. Kwan says all the students worked tirelessly together over the past six months.
"The idea for this conference was born out of a bus ride home from another conference itself. At the time, it seemed like such a crazy idea, but look where we are now! It goes to show that no idea, no project, is too big, or too crazy, or too unattainable. If you work hard enough, and try hard enough, you'll get there. So who knows, maybe on your commute home today, you'll come up with the next big idea."