I spent today at the 12th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m proud to be a “charter” member of this conference, coming the first year and most every year since. This year it was at Case Western Reserve University, but over the years it has been at Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio State University, and George Mason University. Much credit goes to Jennifer Batton for putting together a great conference this year.
For today’s conference I presented on “Exploring Professional and Career Pathways for High School and College Students.” I had intended the session as focusing on ways in which educators can work with students to promote career awareness. But, I didn’t get any educators in the session! My audience was small – three young women – who came looking for insight that might assist them in their career journeys. For me, I’ll always prefer talking directly with young people, than with educators. I was glad they showed up!
Rachael is a student at the University of Akron. She is interested in international politics and peace, and recently interned in Washington, DC at the Foreign Service Institute, known as FSI. Kai is a student at Cuyahoga Community College, taking courses in the college’s certificate in conflict resolution and peace studies. And Anna recently graduated from Gordon College in Boston taking courses in peace studies, and is now living in her home town of Cleveland.
I was interested in “why” they were studying peace. For Kai it was about making change in the world, for Anna she was interested in the ways in which storytelling can advance peace, and for Rachel her interests focused on international issues. They represent the best in youth today: 20 somethings wanting to bring about a more peaceful world through positive change. As we look around at the many movements to advance social causes, youth are in the lead in many of them. Youth leadership today is critical, as I recently pointed out in a Baltimore Sun op-ed.
I was honored to be in their presence. Their enthusiasm and idealism are what we desperately need today.
I told them they had taken an important first step in coming to this conference. There were only a handful of students present at the event. Too bad. Going to professional and academic conferences is the best place to connect with potential mentors and nurturing one’s interests. Meeting professionals who can make connections in the future is important.
I think I was more excited to meet with them than they were to listen to me. It gives me hope for the future when I am in presence of those who will continue the work of peace.