Adriana Noriega is a high school student at Cholla high school. She went to Biosphere 2 Edgemakers Summer Academy last summer where she learned about world issues and some solutions to those problems, through step she hoped to go more in depth. Her project, Quality Education: Youth Engagement demonstrates innovative advocacy campaigns in three schools to address GlobalGoal 4: Access to Quality Education.
My name is Adriana Noriega, I am 16 years old and live in Tucson, Arizona. My passions include volunteering, civic engagement, and learning. Around this time last year, I was applying to the YALLAH Commit to Action (C2A) program piloted by QFI. When applying I was unaware of the impact that this program would have on my life and in less than a year my entire outlook on life changed.
I’ve always known that I was a leader. I understood that I had the potential to be a part of something greater than myself but I never lived out my potential until my involvement in the YALLAH C2A program. My Arabic teacher spoke to me about this amazing opportunity to be involved in the program and I immediately gained interest and began my application. I remember stating in my application that the reason I wanted to be involved in the C2A program was because I wanted to be a part of the solution instead of the problem. I saw the world that I was surrounded by and the issues it was facing and was overwhelmed. Why wasn’t anyone doing anything about it? Why were people ignoring the fact that the world was facing these issues? Why were people complaining and not solving? After thinking long and hard I turned the table on myself. Why didn’t I do anything about it? Why was I ignoring the fact that the world was facing these issues? Why was I complaining and not solving?
I went into the program with the mentality that somehow I was going to make a difference. The program ran for four months and within that timeframe, I took part in leadership training, mentorship, and with the help of QFI and my amazing team, I created my project that revolved around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the United Nations. The goal my group and I chose was goal four, Quality Education, which aspires to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning to all. My group consisted of Lana from Qatar, Lina from Qatar, Sarah from Los Angeles, and myself.
My involvement in the YALLAH C2A program gave me the opportunity to participate in the National Service-Learning Dare to Dream Conference in Anaheim, California last March. I was one of nine students selected to attend this conference. The conference took place March 20th to March 27th. This was my first time seeing the Quality Education team after five months of working with them online, it was also the first time seeing the rest of the selected members and the QFI staff.
At this conference, my group and I presented our project on quality education. We explained how we collaborated across cultures in order for our project to be more effective. We explained the actions we implemented in our communities and reflected on our experiences in the YALLAH C2A program. Grace, also from Tucson, Arizona, presented her project on how she implemented her service-learning project in her community. Her project was based on Goal #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, she and her partner Reem from Doha, Qatar created surveys, had a fundraiser, and hosted a poster contest to raise awareness on the issues the world’s environment was facing.
During our presentation on quality education, our audience was moved, it came to a point where the idea that not every child has access to a quality education brought people to tears. Every young person in that conference room was inspired and motivated to do similar projects just like us. They wanted to be a part of the solution. Being able to influence that many people gave me confidence and made me realize that I had the power to change lives.
I was able to attend various other workshops and also support the other QFI students during their workshops. The presentations of the other YALLAH students were amazing. It was a great experience as I was surrounded by so many others who wanted to make a difference in the world. There were young people just like me who had dreams to make positive change worldwide.
I remember reflecting on this week and thinking that there was nothing that would ever compare to this amazing week in California. The memories I made during this conference are unforgettable. The countless laughs and smiles I shared with the C2A members and QFI staff were some of the best moments in my life. Finding out three months later that I would be reunited with these fantastic individuals in Doha, Qatar for the 6th Annual Qatar Leadership Conference (QLC) was unbelievable.
On October 17, 2017, I was on a plane with three other students from the United States on my way to the Middle East. I had never flown across the waters to a different country in my life. It was going to be my first time being in a completely different environment and I was so excited. It was a tiring 16-hour flight but it was definitely worth it. I remember looking out into the airplane window as we were preparing for landing and being in awe of the amazing city that was below me. I stepped foot off the airplane and immediately began observing my surroundings. It was beautiful. For the first time I saw signs with the Arabic language on them, as an Arabic student I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom to my trip in the Middle East. I was already familiar with the culture but being surrounded by it for a week gave me a new perspective. During this week I once again made memories I will never forget.
The Qatar Leadership Conference took place October 19- 21, 2017. My stay at Qatar was from October 17 through October 23. I was able to once again present my project to several youth like me who had goals to lead and make positive change. Grace and Reem who worked on SDG Goal #12 also spoke about their project on “Changing the Planet One Step at a Time” during our workshop. During the “Quality Education: Youth Engagement” presentation my team and I faced challenges but learned from them. We learned how to stay calm despite having to crunch time on our presentation. We learned how to communicate in a way that the audience was unaware that we were running out of time and still be effective so that every member of the team was on the same page. I personally learned how to speak without relying on notes or powerpoint slides. I definitely grew as a presenter and a person.
During the conference, I had the privilege of hearing amazing keynote speakers and attending great workshops. Once again I was surrounded by people who wanted to be an influence to others in a positive way. Through QLC I learned what it meant to be a leader. I learned that being a leader meant helping others succeed. Being a leader meant being a dreamer. I learned how important it was to not give up. I learned the value of education. I learned how to listen. I learned so much about myself and left the conference motivated to be a part of the solution.
I left Doha, Qatar strongly believing in the power youth have. The youth will solve world issues. We will change the conversation. We will be a part of something greater than ourselves. The youth of today are a generation of solvers.
Looking back at my entire experience in the YALLAH C2A program I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m a completely different person. Thank you to everyone of you who mentored, encouraged, and inspired me to be the person I am today. Thank you for shaping my character and leadership. I am excited to see how much change I personally can make in my community and in the world. I am excited to see this generation rise up and make a positive differences.