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Illuminate x Durham: One to remember!

Hi everyone! My name is Thrisa Piragasan and I am a Grade 12 student at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate. Yesterday, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Durham’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about from the 3 wonderful women who gave wise words of wisdom. Attending this conference not only meant presenting the exciting case study that my team and I had the honor of working on, but it also meant learning from others, as well as learning more about STEM.

Primarily, our conference had began with the amazing Ilona Dougherty, who delivered an aspiring speech. She was our opening keynote speaker, who is the co-creator and managing director of the Youth & Innovation project. Ms.Dougherty had discussed the importance of being a youth and the power we have to accomplish great things, in a world where children's voices may be dismissed due to our age. She spoke greatly about the abilities we possess to help make our world a better place. She mentioned that innovation is one of the best traits the youth has, which allow us to make a positive impact on things we have great concern over. We can accomplish many things as long as we do not doubt ourselves because of our age, our youth makes us exceptional.

We then move on to our first workshop of the day with the great Dr. Prof. Cécile Fradin who showed us a bit into university life! She works at McMaster University as the head of the Physics department, then showed us an interesting presentation about her journey to working at McMaster and a bit about a combination of physics and biology. She spoke about some of the research done in her lab as well and how there is more of a success in learning and doing research, rather then getting some sort of prize. It was really eye-opening, especially considering that I would have much preferred these kind of presentations in school as they were engaging to say the least.

After a quick Q & A session with the CEO and Principal of Illuminate Universe, Alina Huang, and an engineer graduate, and a member at Google, Mackenzie Clark, we then enter our next workshop with Mackenzie on Impostor Syndrome. In this workshop she discussed how many of us undermine our success and our capabilities leaving it to luck or another sort. We each work hard to get to where we want to be, and we should give ourselves the credit we deserve. We also went over things such as power poses and discussed the need to take care of our mental health, as the Imposter Syndrome may try to leave a negative impact. We shouldn't try to be perfect or talk down on yourself, but instead take pride in even the smallest of accomplishments, making us a better person, and allowing us to grow.

Our closing keynote speaker was an empowering woman who advocates for equity and human rights, a vice president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Andrea Gunraj. She showed us how women are strong, how women make meaningful contributions and the struggle they go through to do so. She even mentioned how even if we work tirelessly, it doesn't mean we don't get tired, but it shows that we are able to work for what we want, or what we believe is right.

This experience has left a meaningful impact on me, and for that I would like to thank Illuminate x Durham for allowing me to have something to take away from these beautiful and talented women. To allow me to participate in something that is challenging and interesting, and for allowing me to learn. To learn and open my eyes to a different side that I have yet to have seen previously. I am grateful to be able to gain an experience that will last me a lifetime, and for that, Thank You!

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