This article is from EF’s Global Leadership Summit intern, Isaac Pacor. The EF Global Leadership Summit Internship Program gives high school students a chance to deepen their experience at EF Summits by gaining valuable real-life skills through public speaking, journalism, social media and photography.
As soon as she started speaking the crowd fell silent. Every single one of us – hundreds of teachers and students – latched on to every word. Both mentally and emotionally, her story drew us in.
A month before EF’s 2015 Global Leadership Summit in Davos, Switzerland I found out that I had been selected as one of the Summit’s journalism interns. My assignment would be to report on co-founder and ambassador of the Malala Fund, Shiza Shahid. I was psyched! I had seen her TED talk, read about her in the Forbes “30 Under 30” list, and like many others, I had heard the story of Malala Yousafzai on several different occasions. But it wasn’t until meeting her and hearing her speak at the Summit that I became awestruck and truly inspired.The three-day student leadership conference ended with Shiza – a global social entrepreneur, activist and hero – walking out on to the stage and delivering the Summit’s keynote closing remarks. She shared with everyone what it was like growing up in Pakistan, moving to Stanford, meeting Malala, and how the earth stood still when she found out that Malala had been shot. But in telling her story she focused on three specific areas: our personal journeys of growth and self-discovery, our power to create change, and the importance of living a life of passion.
Seek Growth and Self-Discovery
“Expanding what you know, what you believe, and who you are, is not only a fundamental responsibility, but a source of immense joy and insight.”
When she was 14 Shiza volunteered at a women’s prison and an earthquake relief camp. It was here that she realized there was a lack of opportunity for women in Pakistan, and that poverty and limited education were fueling this problem. These realizations helped set the tone for the rest of her life, and pushed her to be a more competent, globally aware individual that could help create change.We Have the Power to Create Change
“You must never doubt your ability to achieve anything, overcome anything, and inspire everything, because the truth is, there are no superheroes. There is just us, and too often we are the ones that we keep waiting for.”
Shiza had received a scholarship to Stanford University, and on the other side of the world she was meeting new people and discovering new opportunities. Like most college students she was thrilled with what the future held. But unlike many of her peers, devastation was unraveling back home. While in school she saw a video featuring Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who was attending school in secret. It was at that moment, inspired by Malala’s courage and passion for education, that she knew she had to do something. That summer she spent her time off from school running a non-profit camp for young girls, including Malala, from the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley. The camp focused on teaching these girls how to be successful activists and advocates for change in the face of adversity.Live a Life of Passion
“There are certain moments in your life when you will have to decide who you are; in those moments make the decision from your heart and be bold. Your heart already knows what is best for you.”
After graduating from Stanford, Shiza was hired by McKinsey & Company as a business analyst in their Dubai office. During this time, she traveled the world discussing business with some of the biggest and most successful companies; she was living a life that any ambitious college graduate would crave. And then suddenly it all changed – Shiza had just landed in Egypt when she received a text saying Malala had been shot.
She flew to England, where Malala was being treated, to be with her and her family. All at once, she was unsure of her future. She could continue building a successful career in business or she could leave her job and help inspire change throughout the world. Following her heart she quit her job and joined Malala and her father in establishing the Malala Fund – a non-profit dedicated to empowering girls through quality secondary education to achieve their potential and inspire positive change in their communities.There are many Shiza quotes and lessons that I could reflect on, but for me these three stood out the most. When I think of today’s modern education system, each of these lessons seem to be missing:
I see a school that teaches traditional pen and paper subject material, but does not physically expose students to the real-life problems that they will face as adults. I see a school that primes its students for greater education, but does not emphasize that each student has the power to create change. I see a school that teaches math and science, but neglects to address emotions and morals, and how both impact decision making. Shiza showed hundreds of students in Davos that we do have the power to fix what is broken in our communities, and change is in the hands of those who choose to pursue it. For me personally, this change is advocating for new classes that address these three lessons above. There are many revisions that could be made to our education system, and it is vital that all students address that and share their ideas. All of this became especially clear when she gave us this concluding thought:
“When you go home, your parents ask ‘how did you do on your math test, how did you do on your English test, but they don’t ask are you a change-maker? Did you observe something in your class, in your community that you thought was wrong and try and create a solution to fix it?’ Applying that question and that approach to who you are and how you live from a very early age is what needs to happen.”
Isaac Pacor is a rising junior in high school. He was born in Seattle, and although he hopes to one day return to Washington, he currently lives in Massachusetts with his family. With his experiences as a modern high school student and passion for the outdoors, he advocates for decreased homework and is very interested in promoting nature-based learning for future generations.
GLOBAL LEADERSHIP SUMMITS
These extraordinary events combine educational tours and a two–day leadership conference, tackling significant global issues in places where they come to life. You and your students learn from experts such as Al Gore, Jane Goodall and Sir Ken Robinson, and U.S. and local students work together to design and present their own solutions to the issue. Each Summit empowers your students today to start becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Upcoming Summits will tackle the Future of Food in Italy and The Influence of Technology on Society in Berlin.