PORTLAND, MAINE | “We’re here for real change, and we’re not leaving until we get it.” Corey, a 2002 American Seed, lawyer, and citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, gave a stirring address earlier this month as the keynote speaker at the 2021 New England Youth Identity Summit (NEYIS).
Speaking about environmental justice, structural racism, and the long struggle for equality among indigenous people and communities of color in Maine and the United States, he set the tone for a day of powerful workshops, panels, and discussions among students and educators who are passionate about making meaningful change in their communities. Over 150 people logged in on April 10 for the fifth annual summit, an event that is designed, led and implemented by students—many of them Seeds and Seeds of Peace community members—and hosted by Waynefleet High School in Maine, in partnership with Seeds of Peace.
Covid-19 may have prevented students from coming together in person as they have in years past, but students turned the virtual platform into an opportunity to connect with communities far beyond New England: Throughout the day, participants logged in from as far as New York, Minnesota, Kentucky, Washington State, and even Egypt.
With the theme “Youth Voice. Youth Power,” the mostly student-led workshops gave youth a platform to share their passions and learn from their peers on some of the most pressing issues of today—including restorative justice, mental health, climate activism, human rights, and the media. The goal, said Mary, a 2014 Maine Seed and one of the event’s organizers, is to give participants a place to connect and learn from one another, to challenge their own perceptions, and to use what they learn at NEYIS to make a difference in their communities.
“The NEYIS gave me the platform, as a workshop leader, to see the ripple effect before my very own eyes,” said Danielle, a 2018 Maine Seed.
“While watching so many dynamic humans learn from one another and more about themselves, I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that: these learners of today will be, are already, the changemakers of tomorrow.”
Learn more about Seeds of Peace U.S. and Maine programs at seedsofpeace.org/join.