Reflections On My Personal Leadership Journey
I am excited to share that I have been invited to give the opening keynote at the Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) in Washington DC this coming July 12, organized by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.
As an alumnus of the GYLC, I am extremely excited and humbled at the very same time, to have been asked to give the opening keynote. I attended this very same youth leadership conference back in July 2002. The difference is, back then, I was a young and naive 17 year old teenager who had just graduated from the International School of Choueifat in Al Ain, with a world of possibilities before him. Given my work with Social Innovation Generation these past few years and my keen interest in social entrepreneurship, I still feel that there is a world of possibilities out there, it is certainly an exciting time to be a part of this growing social innovation movement.
I was asked to write up a reflections piece by the CYLC discussing my journey beyond the conference in 2002, to be featured in their newsletter to parents and students thinking about attending the GYLC. If you are one of those students and you are reading this, I would highly recommend you attend.
I have shared my reflection piece below, feedback welcome.
With this in mind, I will be in Washington DC July 10-14, 2010 and then in New York City from July 14-18, 2010. So if you are in town and would like to get together, please feel free to drop me a line.
Reflections of a GYLC Alumnus (2002) – by Renjie Butalid
I attended the Global Young Leaders Conference in July 2002 after I was nominated and encouraged to attend by my high-school teacher during senior year. I did not realize the extent to which the conference would have an impact on me until now, when I was asked to submit a reflection piece by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council on my journey after the GYLC. Looking back over the past eight years, I can say with utmost certainty that it was a transformative experience for me and I would not be the person I am today if it had not been for the days spent in Washington DC and New York City that summer. The lessons that I learned and the people I met from all over the world, many of whom I call close friends and still keep in touch with, have had a profound impact on me even to this day.
Making the decision to attend the GYLC was not an easy one as it required a much bigger personal and financial commitment coming from the United Arab Emirates, a country situated in the Middle East and halfway around the world from the United States of America. I lived and grew up in a small oasis desert city called Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, with parents who decided to move to the UAE from the Philippines in 1990. Growing up, I was your average teenager, not quite shy, and yet, not too sure what my identity was and where my place was in this world given my cultural background and heritage living in a foreign country. I also never considered myself to be a leader, even though it seemed I was highly involved in high school through playing on a number of sports teams and competing with other schools in the local area.
Attending the GYLC changed all that and I was able to see myself in a different light from then on. There is something very powerful in the notion that someone out there believes in you and sees your leadership potential and capabilities. You ultimately begin to believe it yourself and it eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. More than anything, the GYLC allowed me to find the courage within myself as I embarked on my leadership journey moving forward.
Following the conference, I came to Canada as an international student to study mathematics and business at the University of Waterloo. Two years into the program, I realized more than anything that my interests and passions were more aligned with the study of finance and international relations, so I switched majors and chose to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with a minor in Political Science from the University of Waterloo. I also found myself getting a lot more involved within the Waterloo student community; getting hired as a residence don and introducing first-year students to campus life as a freshman orientation leader, and eventually becoming president of the Waterloo Model United Nations where I was able to lead a team of Waterloo students to the Harvard University Model United Nations conference in Boston in 2006. My experience with the GYLC and subsequent introduction to the UN Headquarters in New York City back in 2002, where we played the role of diplomats engaged in foreign relations, certainly helped to put things into perspective for me early on.
These activities and my involvement with numerous clubs and organizations on campus, gave me the boost of confidence I needed to really take on major leadership roles at the University of Waterloo. In early 2006, I ran for and was elected to the one-year term of Vice President Administration & Finance for the student-body government at the University of Waterloo, having the privilege to represent over 24,000 undergraduate students and tasked with the responsibility of managing an operating budget of $1.2 million.
These days my interests lies in the realm of social innovation, working full-time for close to two years now as the (Waterloo) Communications Coordinator for the Canadian-based Social Innovation Generation, a national collaborative between University of Waterloo, MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in Montreal and PLAN Institute in Vancouver, designed to foster a culture of social innovation in Canada. Social innovation, in this case, refers to new ways of thinking and acting within society–from government, education and healthcare, to non-profit, charity and business–in order to address the root causes of intractable social problems that will ultimately lead to transformative and meaningful change within our local communities and across global society as a whole.
This idea of creating meaning within our lives and having a deeper impact within our local communities, is far more resonant with our generation that it has ever been in the past. It is an exciting time to be involved in profound social change within our communities and as US President Barack Obama once said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”
More than anything, the GYLC offered me the opportunity to see myself as a leader at such a young age, preparing me to take on the complexities of global challenges and for this, I am truly grateful.
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