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Illuminate x Durham - Challengers of the Status Quo

Updated: Apr 18, 2021


Hi everyone! My name is Sahithya and I am a Grade 10 student at Pickering High School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Durham’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about.


Ilona Dougherty, the first Keynote Speaker, informed us during this conference that kids don't truly get the opportunity to contribute, as young people are seen as incomplete - a state of becoming an adult. Some don't value what young people have to offer AS young people. In reality, we kids have unique abilities that we only possess when we are young as our creativity is at its height and we are natural experimenters and risk-takers. Intergenerational collaboration is something that should be practiced more often and should be provided more opportunities for, as young people have much to contribute as we tap into our unique abilities!


The second Keynote Speaker, Cecile Fradin, was personally very enlivening for me because I want to be a researcher when I'm older and my dream school is McMaster University. Seeing and listening to a professor who teaches at this school, plus researches living systems allowed me to actively participate and pay attention since I found the information fascinating and I wanted to learn more. Cecile started off by saying how your parent's careers should not define your path, and this was something important because neither of my parents works in the science field, and I would be the first in my family to be interested in it. She spoke about Internships and introduced me to the idea of international studies which definitely was intriguing. Cecile also brought light to unconscious bias and stereotypes which was an eye-opener because I never thought that I would unconsciously be stereotypical towards the gender of a surgeon. Along with unconscious stereotypes, internalized stereotypes were also talked about, and the mental strains and burdens they may cause in the future. For example, the burdens a wife may have due to stereotypes like doing the dishes or worrying about what food is needed in the fridge.


Mackenzie Clark spoke to us about Imposter syndrome and what exactly it is. She told us that it was okay to feel this way and that those who struggle with this are not alone, as she first-hand experiences this as well. I've learned that some of the things people with Imposter Syndrome may feel/do include;

  • chalking your success up to luck, timing, or computer error

  • believing “If I can do it, anybody can”

  • agonizing over even the smallest flaws in your work

  • seeing constructive criticism as evidence of “ineptness”

  • When succeeding, secretly feeling like you fooled them again

  • worrying that it’s just a matter of time before you’re “found out”

I am grateful that I was taught about Imposter Syndrome at a young age, so I am able to pinpoint what I am feeling and why I'm feeling this way. Whenever I feel like I'm not good enough in the future, I can relieve my stress by doing things I enjoy and I know I'm good at, like reading a book, or baking.


The last Keynote speaker during this conference was Andrea Gunraj. She spoke about human rights and leadership. Making sure you do the right thing and helping others was what Andrea was teaching us, but she goes deeper into it. She taught me that doing good for others also relates to you psychologically, and your thoughts before taking action and doing something. Specifically, she says that prioritizing yourself and telling yourself you will help others in the future is a decision you will come to regret. A simpler decision is to help others along the way. This alternative allows you to be successful AND be a great leader. Thanks to this presentation, doing these two tasks together is something I will take with me and will be working on - helping others, something I enjoy doing, while satisfying myself with my accomplishments!


This was my first time partaking in an activity like this and it was definitely a new experience. Since the pandemic began last year, my social skills have definitely been lacking due to the fact that I was not able to communicate with others as much as I would like. Illuminate x Durham has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and participate more during our meetings every week on Fridays and engaging in the activities during the calls. The weekly tasks also allowed me to expand my ideas and thinking outside of the box, especially for the case study. In addition to this, I was able to make new friends that I was able to connect with because of the weekly tasks and became very close within the end! This was an amazing opportunity and I learned new things that I will definitely take with me and use in the future!