Celebrating International Youth Day

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Sean Schrader as a Millennium Fellow

When I was younger, I balked when hearing phrases like “time may be moving slow
now, but as you get older, it will fly by.” However, I’ve slowly begun to realize just how
accurate those statements were. Major milestones like graduating college, high school,
and getting a first car all kind of blend together, because time is truly moving so fast.
When you think about it, it’s unfortunate that everything moves at such a fast pace
that there’s limited time to stop and reflect on the past. However, admittedly, days
filled with classes, meetings, and community events are an exciting way to keep
moving and stay engaged.

Despite the constant non-stop days that get jumbled up in the mix, holidays are an
opportunity to pause and come together to commemorate a certain cause, and that’s
exactly what International Youth Day does.
Established by the United Nations, International Youth Day is centered around the
premise of bringing youth together from all over the world in pursuit of practicing
Sustainable Development Goals which put a focus on our future.

When thinking about the future, there are a lot of challenges we face as a collective like
protecting our environment, promoting civil discourse, and ensuring that everyone’s
voice is heard. For many of the problems we face, it can be difficult to think about how
one person can make any kind of real impact, but I’ve always been a believer in the
idea that significant change can come through organized effort from everyone. That’s
why celebrating International Youth Day is so important. To address the problems of
our present, and to ensure we are creating a future built for all, we must incorporate
all perspectives into the solution-making process, and that includes youth voices.

Last year, I was incredibly fortunate to participate in the Millennium Fellowship, a
semester-long initiative supported by the United Nations to empower youth to create
projects aimed at supporting Sustainable Development Goals. Aside from the energy,
talent, and drive that so many youth leaders shared throughout the world, I was
astonished to learn about some of the initiatives these students had undertaken like
implementing a tutoring program to provide educational support to students in need
or establishing an ocean clean-up to remove litter in our environment. Although it was
neat and inspiring to learn from what my peers were focusing on, I was most
impressed with their drive, and a true willingness to not become distressed at the
problem at hand, but rather create new solutions to protect our shared future.

Currently, I am honored to serve as the Campus Governor at the University of South
Florida in St. Petersburg, where I have the chance to be a voice for students. When I
campaigned for the position last year, one of the top things I often heard from my
student peers was that they were tired of others assuming what they thought. In an
effort to break that feeling among students, I’m very excited to be leading an initiative to
create student-led task forces on our campus, aimed at examining different
segments of our campus, and providing students with a direct opportunity to share
their perspective freely.

Although this is a very small objective I’ve focused on, the overall concept of
promoting, empowering, and supporting youth resonates loudly, and inspires me to
think about the ways we can all empower youth voices, today and every day.

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