by Raina Kadavil

The Youth Assembly is an incredible thing: once you experience one, you have to keep going back for more. That’s because this is no ordinary conference: it is three days of empowering speakers, think-outside-the-box workshops, hands-on learning, new friendships, and lots of laughter, tears, and smiles – all in a global platform that you share with like-minded young leaders and change-makers.  It all comes with the mind-blowing realization that thanks to experiences like these, many of the people you meet in these three days will someday lead and change the world – and maybe you will, too.

That has been my experience, at least, and it has been the experience of the hundreds of young people I have met at seven Youth Assemblies over the last five years. You might ask, after so many conferences, ‘Doesn’t it get repetitive?’ The answer is no. Part of that is owed to the fact that fortunately, there is no shortage of creative, service-minded people in the world who are willing to raise their voices for the causes they are passionate about.

Our speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders celebrate diversity, ingenuity, and dedication to a worthwhile cause that addresses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. From well-known leaders like UN Ambassadors, UN Youth Envoys, and the UN Secretary-Generals themselves, to corporate stars like Huffington Post Editors and Microsoft YouthSpark members who are helping young people use words and code to rewrite global issues, to activists like Xiutzecatl Martinez, Amani al-Khatahtbeh, and hundreds of young people who are fighting for refugee aid, LGBTQ rights, women’s empowerment, and a solution to climate change, The Youth Assembly has been a platform for those who have a worthwhile story to tell. Working with the Youth Assembly, I had the honor of meeting many of these game-changers and hearing even more of their stories. Perhaps even more incredibly, I have had the honor of meeting and befriending many Youth Assembly delegates who have since – within the last five years – gone on to found global nonprofits, dynamic companies, win distinguished awards, and speak at platforms around the world about the causes that they learned about at the Youth Assembly. Youth Assembly delegates bring what they learned back to their schools, jobs, and families and cause a ripple effect – they bring a piece of the Youth Assembly home with them through stories, pictures, memories, and lifelong friends from around the world.

But another part of the Youth Assembly’s constant invigoration is testament to the energy and dedication exhibited by the staff, interns, and volunteers who make the Youth Assembly possible year after year: Working and volunteering at the Youth Assembly, you become part of a very inspired family and larger network of change-makers. The Youth Assembly was my second internship and it set me up for many of the professional experiences I have had since.

At seventeen, as a senior in high school, it was a dream come true to not just sit in the seats and watch activists, NGO founders, authors, entrepreneurs, and world leaders speak, but actually be the one engaging them and bringing them to the conference, organizing the schedule, and running logistics behind the scenes. The other staff and many of the speakers and presenters at conferences were also instrumental to elevating my own service work, encouraging me to expand the nonprofit organization and news series that I was running at the time. I was given the opportunity to speak on a panel about climate change, design and moderate my own panel about young people’s channels of change, and even speak at the General Assembly Hall about Sustainable Development Goal #12 in front of an audience of over a thousand. The Youth Assembly gave me agency, confidence, and an incredible network that I have brought with me long after I left, to my International Relations major at Boston University and to internships and jobs at the United Nations Association of the USA, British Parliament, the International Commission of Jurists, BOARD International, and today as CEO of a new nonprofit called Urban Refuge.

Now, the Youth Assembly is moving around the world. I understand that the Youth Assembly knows no limits and I look forward to watching and supporting as it continues to bring more and more young people together. With almost 2 billion young people in the world, the Youth Assembly has its work cut out for it. But, if you’re considering registering and attending, here’s a warning: once you attend, you’ll catch the bug – you’ll want more. You will want to continue learning about the world around you, and you will have an insatiable desire to make a difference. Luckily for you, the Youth Assembly will give you the tools, the knowledge, and the friends to do it.

About the Author

Raina Kadavil is a Marketing Specialist at Mastercard with a degree in International Relations from Boston University. She has a background in service work as the CEO of Urban Refuge and former President of Global Ambassadors, and interned at The Youth Assembly. She is also the author of “The Voice of Thunder”. @raina_kadavil