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In February seven US students attended the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference at Lincoln and Moses Brown Schools in Providence, RI. The annual three-day conference brings together students from Friends schools around the country to explore the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Equality, Integrity, Community, and Service. The theme of this year’s conference was “(In)Equality: Past, Present, and Future.” Through student-led discussions, workshops, community service, leadership training, and silent meetings, participants reflected on past and present inequalities and considered how to create a more just future. Workshop topics included “Hidden Biases of Good People,” “Why Gender Matters in the Fight Against Global Poverty,” and “Israel/Palestine.” All workshops were led by both adults and students–in fact, one of our own students led a workshop on storytelling. There was also time for board games, a student-DJ’d dance, a film festival, and an “after-hours” coffee house.
What follows is an account of the conference that the students wrote together.
The struggle was real…it all started when we had to come into school with all our bags. After having our first three classes, we took the C train to the Port Authority bus terminal to get the bus to Rhode Island. During the longs hours on the bus we took naps, listened to music, talked and played games. When we got there we were kindly welcomed by students from the host schools, Lincoln and Moses Brown. Soon after arriving, we were able to set up our sleeping bags in the gym space. We were then escorted to another gym, where we played some icebreakers led by Moses Brown and Lincoln students. After that we had pasta for dinner and signed up for tomorrow’s workshops. Then we got an amazing introduction by Liza Talusan who led a speech about the theme of Past, Present, and Future. She led a speed-dating-like activity where we were able to talk individually with people from different schools about sensitive topics. We then had silent meeting that lasted about half an hour. After that there was a dance party and some board games in the cafeteria, and finally it was time to go to bed.
We woke up early on Friday, only to be met with snow. Not just snow, but enough snow to get schools, and our outdoor service activities, canceled. After a wonderful breakfast we split up into groups to watch some movies on gender identity and inequality followed by discussion groups and leadership workshops. After that we walked over to Moses Brown for some snacks before our second keynote address, this time about social injustice through the years, followed by silence. Then we split up and had dinner at local restaurants next to the Moses Brown campus. After dinner we saw a wonderful selection of student-made films from a film festival hosted by Brooklyn Friends School and heard a special announcement: next year’s QYLC will be co-hosted by Mary McDowell and Brooklyn Friends! We started thinking up ideas on the bus ride back to Lincoln, where we wrapped up the evening with Coffeehouse, the talent show hosted each year. We saw plenty of great performances ranging from monologues and slam poetry to ribbon dancing and an excellent recorder performance by one of us. After the show wrapped up at 11:30 we headed off to bed, exhausted from an awesome day.
We woke up sleepy-eyed after a long night of watching some great talent. Then we packed up all our stuff and headed to breakfast. Afterwards, we enjoyed our final workshops, which consisted of bad raps, blues music, and planning for the future QYLC to be held at our school! We then traveled to the Peter Pan bus terminal and played some cards games with Carolina Friends School. Then we took off on a long bus ride and began, with excitement, fleshing out ideas for next year. We can’t wait to host QYLC with Brooklyn Friends and we are going to start meeting with them after spring break. We hope we can have an amazing QYLC and put our school on the map!