Three Lake Oswego High School students recently had the opportunity to meet students from around the world at the World Affairs Seminar (WAS). WAS is an international youth initiative of Rotary International District 6270, with a vision of bringing a better understanding of world problems to young people, using current issues as a learning platform.
This year's topic was "The Promise and Perils of Social Media."
The Lake Oswego Rotary Club sponsors students from LO to attend the annual seminar, held at Carrol University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. This year, LOHS students Sabrina Safari, George Danzelaud and Eliza Wadell were chosen to join 300 students from 30 countries at the seminar held June 22-28.
On Monday, Sept. 23, the three students returned to the Lake Oswego Rotary Club to share their takeaways from WAS.
Wadell said one of her favorite part of the seminar was meeting peers from around the world. "It was so fun to find our shared interests," she said. "Even though we were from different countries, we found we had a lot in common."
Wadell also enjoyed discussing social media, which she found to be an extremely relevant topic. "We all use social media, so I liked talking about how we could use it to change the world," she said. "On the other hand, we also learned about how it can cause polarization in politics."
Safari said she was optimistic about social media going into the seminar, but has "learned it can be a very dangerous and toxic place," she said.
Danzelaud said he doesn't have a big social media presence, and was interested in learning about how to help his friends and family stay safe online. He told Rotary that one of the most educational presentations he attended was from a former FBI special agent who discussed the impact of social media on individuals' lives.
"Agencies and corporations can take advantage of you online without you even knowing it," Danzelaud said. "With so much modern technology, we expose ourselves more than we realize, but there are ways to be online while protecting yourselves."
Strategies include using common sense, keeping passwords and personal information to yourself, and being on the lookout for identity thieves.
Safari said her favorite presentation was about systemic oppression in technology. "It was really profound and impactful for me, and pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone," she said.
Safari's other favorite part of the seminar was her 6 a.m. workout group. "I loved working out every day with people from all over the world who are also interested in athletics," she said.
Danzelaud also made friends from around the world, including from Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Norway. Each group was responsible for developing a capstone project, and Danzelaud and his group settled on a topic easily. "We realized that we all shared an appreciation for the outdoors and the natural world," he said. For the project, he and his group looked at how different kinds of social media spread awareness about protecting the environment, and where it falls short.
Danzelaud said working with his group "reminded me of the attitude here at Rotary. We all share a singular vision for the world and where it's going."
Wadell's capstone project was about social media awareness concerning special needs. She said her group decided on the topic after realizing they all had some connection to it. "My brother has Down syndrome, and it was so crazy to discover we all had this one link that made us who we are," Wadell said. "We all worked together to raise awareness for students with special needs."
Safari's group addressed literacy and library funding for their capstone project. "We were focused on trying to get libraries more funding," she said.
Safari also shared that the seminar helped her discover her love of travel.
"I've always dreamed of traveling. I definitely want to see the world, and you all helped me see that," she said. "Thank you for supporting my journey to WAS."
Danzelaud also thanked Rotary for their support. "This experience gave us a chance to think about technology in a new way, and was something that we couldn't get anywhere else," he said. "We hope you feel fulfilled in sponsoring us, because we certainly do."
For more information on the World Affairs Seminar, visit www.worldaffairsseminar.org/.
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