Screen Shot 2021-04-27 at 9.07.18 AM.png

My Illuminate Experience

Updated: Apr 18, 2021


Hi everyone! My name is Gabriella and I am a grade 10 student at Dunbarton Highschool. This morning I had the honor to attend the Illuminate x Durham conference. Today, I am going to share my thoughts and highlights of this conference.


One thing that I learned about the future of women in STEM and leadership from today is that it's ok not to have 100% of the qualifications when applying somewhere. An education is not mandatory for success. As long as you are determined and confident about your work, you will be successful. Another thing I learned about this topic is that the stereotypes that people might have about women and their other communities shouldn't matter. You should be able to fight against these stereotypes and prove them wrong. Be the person that they don't think you can be. A third thing that I learned about the future of women in STEM and leadership is that to try even though you think that you may not succeed. One thing that the speaker Mackenzie Clark said was that always apply for the school or job even if you're doubting yourself. It's always good to have your name in the system.


During todays conference I had the honor of listening to many speakers, including the CEO of Illuminate Alina Huang. Our first speaker was Ilona Dougherty. She spoke about how we all have the ability to make a difference, you just have to put your mind to it. She talked about how we as young people are often viewed as incomplete, disengaged and separated from adults. She said that we have to change the understanding of young people in our society, and look at those opportunities to help a community, not as learning opportunities. A few other ways she mentioned we can shift these understandings of young people are to question others authority, to work WITH the adults and not FOR them and to stay curious and act on the curiosity. She also taught me that we are capable to contribute to your communities by engaging and staying at the table- when you think something, it's important to say it and don't hold back. Be respectful and mindful of others, but express your opinion and get your voice heard.


Andrea Gunraj was another speaker I heard today. She spoke about the importance of gender equality and human rights. I thought it was inspirational the way she expressed the importance of human rights and how we need to prioritize them. She mentioned the imbalance between men and women in society (especially harder for women of colour and women apart of the lgbtq+ communities). She said that we need to focus more on getting rid of discrimination and lack of fairness in our lives, weather that be in our community, in our home, etc. She also mentioned that we can always look for ways to make a change in our society by looking at others (weather that is who inspires you or the opposite), the unheard voices and even the messages given in books. Another thing that she talked about was how to be a good co-mentor. She said that being able to take in criticism and give constructive criticism is an important skill to have. You need to be able to give it and receive wisely and respectfully.


A third speaker that we had today was Mackenzie Clark. She mainly talked about a syndrome called imposter syndrome, which is the doubtful and negative emotions you feel about yourself towards a task. Mackenzie helped opened my eyes and showed me that I do in fact have this syndrome, but so do many others. She helped me see that no one is ever alone. Often when you feel stressed or upset about a workload or a task, so do your peers or coworkers. No one is ever alone when feeling these emotions and they can also be overcame. Mackenzie taught me to become confident and accepting towards these tasks that life hands you!


Something that I enjoyed from this conference was being able to present my group presentation for the speakers and other guest judges. I enjoyed being able to get their advice and feedback on our app and hearing the comments they had on our presentation. Another thing I enjoyed was, of course, listening to the speakers and watching their presentations. I enjoyed all of them but one in particular was by Dr. Cecilre Fradin. I really enjoyed going through her presentation with her and answering her polls. I thought that the videos that were included was very interesting as well. I enjoyed the fact that she gave us some insight on topics that are not taught in high school and how she gave us advice for our future in college and university.


I will make sure to apply all the information and facts that the speakers I mentioned in this conference to my future learning and life. I think that all the things that they said was interesting, inspiring and overall encouraging. Their words will stick with me forever. Another thing that I will apply to my future would be power poses. I thought that this was a fun and cool way to boost your confidence and prepare to speak in front of crowds. This is something that I often struggle with, so I will definitely use this technique in the future!


I look forward to apply these things to my life and I am happy that I got the opportunity to be apart of this years conference, as it was an amazing experience!