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Illuminate X Durham Conference: 3 Outstanding Women Who Sparked Inspiration and Passion in Me.



Good evening fellow readers! Today has been a wonderful 24 hours, especially the time I spent in the Zoom Meeting with several high school students, Regional Leads, and Key Note Speakers. It was full of new experiences and inspiration from such talented women who shared their struggle and deserving success. Simply being present in such a meeting showed me a different way of learning as well as different things to learn. And before I go into some amazing takeaways, let me introduce myself!


My name is Sanjana Kumaran and I am a Grade 10 student studying at Bishop P.F Reding Catholic Secondary School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Durham’s regional conference and meet Alina Huang, Ilona Dougherty, Mackenzie Klark, Andrea Gunraj, and Cecile Fradin, 5 amazing encouraging women empowerment in many societies.


As a result of attending the meet, I have learnt one main factor that can influence one's confidence, what success truly means, and how the young and innovative minds of our generation have the ability to solve many societal problems. The Durham Regional Conference has opened doors to workshops with such talented women speaking about their experiences and struggle towards reaching success. I would like to say thank you to everyone for giving me this opportunity to learn, explore, and innovate! In this blog, I will be talking about how I was inspired by 3 empowering women.


To begin, I was highly fascinated and inspired by Ilona Dougherty's speech. Her speech entailed ideas of how generation Z and young people have the ability to innovate, create, and solve problems the world is currently facing. She starts off by stating how confident and open she was as an adolescent. 2 things that stood out to me were;

  • Speaking on local radio about how Ilona's teacher had behaved inappropriately during class

  • Petition in the community arguing that tests are not necessary during school years.

Even though people may argue against her thoughts and think she is over-confident, I learnt that one of the main tips to success is to be self-confident, even if that word has become cliché. It is an old yet true fact that Ilona has reiterated for me, and I truthfully feel inspired! I experience a lot of stress and low self-esteem when facing challenges, however, knowing that Ilona spoke her mind without second thoughts inspires me to believe myself more.


Additionally, something that made my eyes pop was her large belief about how young people can positively impact community problems. Youngsters are the pillar of innovation and the leaders of tomorrow, and Ilona goes on to mention how important it is for different workplaces and adults to accept the upcoming generations' ideas. Some points that I found truly inspiring are;

  • Young people are perceived different from their true identity, and people need to recognize who youngsters truly are.

  • Young people are seen as incomplete and society fails to realize that youth is a group of creative minds that are bound to become a true contribution to society.

  • Young people have certain unique abilities which research proves to only exist during youth, which will help society overcome the complex problems the world faces today.

  • Ilona does not want us to only learn, but she encourages us to take risks, challenges, and use opportunities to contribute to society and its problems. She motivates us to work with adults and build a partnership to illustrate our ideas.

Overall, Ilona has inspired me to take risks, ensure my voice is heard at every meeting table, and contribute to solving the several issues present today. Thank you Ilona!


Secondly, the next woman that motivated me so much is Mackenzie Klark.

Her career consisted of several internships offered by different companies and a solid education at the University of Toronto. She is now working for Google, one of the biggest companies in the world, but exclaims that she was lucky to get the job, and she didn't succeed because of her own talents. Well, after Mackenzie clarified that she had Imposter Syndrome, I was finally able to relate and realize why I stress so much and have less self-confidence. I was able to learn that this syndrome makes one degrade and not value themselves, which I have experienced since the start of high school. Highschool has loaded so much stress on me, and knowing what maybe the cause has really benefited me. Mackenzie states that she got this job out of luck, however, after knowing that she had this syndrome, it allowed her to value herself more.


I feel I have learnt a very important thing from her which is to accept your success and believe that your hard work led to it, and it surely would have. Thank you Mackenzie Klark! Thank you for educating us about the syndrome and giving us new opportunities!



Lastly, I truly enjoyed Cecile Fradin's free magnotectactic bacteria lesson! It was really interesting to learn some new science apart from school textbooks and worksheets! Additionally, something that Cecile said which hooked me was; success is not getting a job or getting the monthly salary, its about doing a job you love. Thank you Cecile Fradin!





Altogether, I fully enjoyed this wonderful experience that encourages women empowerment, contribution of youngsters, reaching success, and passion. I had fun in each workshop, and I would love to be a part of Illuminate next year! Thank you for reading my blog post!