Young. Passionate. Ready to take on the world.
University of Windsor’s Youshaa El-Abed recently returned from the 8th annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand, inspired to step forward as a young leader in Windsor-Essex.
He was one of more than 900 students who took part in the week-long conference aimed at motivating the next generation of leaders working towards arising humanitarian issues.
“It was the most remarkable experience I have ever had in my life,” the 20-year-old biological sciences student said. “I always knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world and this seemed like an excellent way to learn from people who have already made a positive impact.”
The symposium takes university students between the ages of 18 and 30 and places them with like-minded students from around the world. The week-long conference includes workshop sessions to initiate a sustainable development project or lead volunteers on a humanitarian mission, and motivational speakers.
For El-Abed, one of the most memorable moments from the conference that ran from August 1 to 7 was meeting speaker Rahila Haidary. At the age of six, Haidary was forced to leave Afghanistan because she defied the Afghan Taliban and dressed up as a boy to attend school.
“It really puts life into perspective for me and truly made me appreciate my life even more in Canada,” El-Abed said, who’s an Outstanding Scholar at UWindsor. “She has become a very strong voice for youth injustice all around the world, and I’m happy that I am still able to talk to her.”
Youshaa El-Abed poses with Rahila Haidary during the 8th annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium.
It was at the symposium that El-Abed was inspired to take an idea and apply it here on campus. He has already met with members of the University's administration to propose the idea of giving students the opportunity to donate the remaining balance of their meal plans to local food banks.
“UWindsor is known as being so diverse, and with so many international students this could really help some of those students who would be dependent on a food bank,” he said. “Students can decide whether or not they want to participate and will help those in need who have other expenses they need to cover like tuition.”
Now home in Windsor and preparing for the fall semester, El-Abed said he hopes to inspire other students to step forward with their ideas and to attend the symposium next summer.
“I have met the most incredible friends from all around the world,” El-Abed said, adding that he encourages interested students to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. “I will be attending next year with the hopes of once again representing Canada on such a powerful global platform."