By Steph McNicol
Selling raffle tickets, hosting sausage sizzles and doing volunteer work paid off for hard-working Wallan Secondary School captains who travelled to America for the Global Young Leaders Conference last month.
Ruby Sommerville, Lachlan Mozina, Coen Triffetts and Riley Cook said the trip exceeded their expectations and the time passed quickly as they learnt many valuable lessons.
Lachlan said all atttendees were separated into their country groups after getting to the hotel – India, Nigeria, Brazil and Russia.
“My roommates were two boys from Trinidad. We spent the night talking about our home, our culture, our school and of course learning each other’s slang words,” he said.
“They were really nice guys and we became good friends, we are already making plans to travel and catch up.”
Ruby said they made lifelong friends with other students from around the world.
“It was crazy how at the start we were all complete strangers, but by the end we were crying because we had to say goodbye,” she said.
At the conference attendees had to pitch an idea related to their Sustainable Development Goal, which would provide a solution for a struggling country.
The submissions were debated and attendees voted on each proposal as an entire delegation.
“There were three people in my group from Nigeria and when we were tackling our SDG of clean water they said, ‘you have to tackle corruption before you get to your actual goal’, so
I was like ‘well that’s just changed our whole plan,’” Coen said.
The captains agreed it was an eye-opening experience for them, as they realised they were trying to find a solution to a problem they had no first-hand understanding of, as well as additional complex issues – corruption, economics, social and religious factors.
The students said the conference was taken seriously and based on the UN guidelines.
“Some kid fell asleep, because we were all pretty tired, and his country was given a warning. It was very serious,” Coen said.
“It was based on the UN guidelines, so no slouching, no chewing gum, no talking – you had to pass notes,” Ruby said.
The captains said, for three of them, the trip changed their career aspirations because of what they had experienced.
“I did want to do diesel mechanics, but when we had the walk through the UN, a spokesman mentioned that you could be a UN Peace Keeper,” Riley said.
“I had this feeling come through me that I could do that and I could be someone who helps these younger kids in struggling countries to survive.”
Coen said he knew he still wanted to be in the army because of how his skills came into play during the trip.
“It did give me more of an urge to lead. We had a few shy people in our group, and it gave me that chance to lead and give them an example to follow,” he said.
The students thanked the community for their support and donations.