On Friday, June 18, I attended the “ACTup Conference” at Louise Arbour Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario, on behalf of YCI. The conference was hosted by Humberview Secondary School’s “Canadian and World Issues” class, taught by Andrew Cresswell.  As the head of Humberview’s Social Science Department, Cresswell has been seeking more effective ways to educate and reach his students.

Jordan & Andrew at the ACTup Conference

Running since 2008, Cresswell helped his grade 12 students set up a conference that would “use forms of art and media to educate and inform peers about social, cultural, and economic issues.” The ACTup Conference targets middle school students and is composed of a series of workshops that the students can freely attend.  The workshops use art forms such as drama, music, visual arts, and spoken word to allow students to communicate with each other about how to make positive changes in the world.

The 2010 ACTup Conference had over 100 middle school attendees. It began with keynote speaker and musician, Prita Chhabra, singing some original songs and speaking to the students about her trip to Africa for HIV/AIDS research. Shortly after, the students dispersed to their selected workshops where they participated in pre-arranged activities by Cresswell’s students. After a short lunch break, the students visited a variety of booths at the trade show, including NGOs such as YCI, CANFAR, Free the Children and the PWNE (Peel Works Needle Exchange). Following the trade show, the students then attended a new workshop that differed from the one they chose in the morning. When 90 minutes elapsed, they returned to the auditorium for the closing remarks by performer Douglas John Cameron.

Andrew Cresswell and his students, organizers of the ACTup Conference

This year, I was educating the ACTup attendees about YCI and their incredible programs. However, I had the chance to facilitate the conference in 2009, and it is amazing how much these students can learn from one another in an afternoon. ACTup truly allows for a form of teaching that is regrettably overlooked by educators. The conference is run completely by high school students who are very passionate about helping their younger peers feel like they can make a difference in the world. I believe that if more students had the chance to attend an ACTup Conference, future youth would have a much greater awareness of global issues.

-Jordan Metcalfe is the team leader for the Queen’s University Volunteer Action Network (QVAN) team in Kingston, as well as a member of the Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC).

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