This year, the Bioneers Youth Leadership Program awarded a record number of 357 scholarships to youth from the US and abroad. G
Jake Kornack, a Bioneers youth scholarship recipient, shares his experience at the 2014 conference and how it led to an invitation to the White House:
"I recently attended the Bioneers 25th Annual Summit as the recipient of a Bioneers Youth Leadership Scholarship and with the generous support of Career Center. This conference shed light on my potential career path and gave me insight into the people whose lifestyles I aspire to one day replicate. Every year, Bioneers brings together social and environmental leaders and those of us seeking their wisdom to discuss how we can transform society to create a more sustainable and just world. Yet, the conference is more than merely a collection of keynotes; it is the birthplace and development of a culture comprised of extraordinary empathy, love, and intellect.
For me, the true value of the conference was the chance it offered me to peer into not only what my ideal career would be but, also, what my ideal community would look like. As I passed tables during meals, conversations were rich with people debating the best paths forward; yet, everyone maintained a level of respect for one another, and no one perceived an intellectual disagreement as a personal attack. The environment that was created by this conflux of foundational principles was an immense source of inspiration for me. As I try to envision and create a more sustainable world, I can now envision such a world with greater clarity.
This conference shed light on my potential career path and gave me insight into the people whose lifestyles I aspire to one day replicate.
On one particular night, I was motivated to disregard what I thought were my personal boundaries concerning social dynamics. During a dinner for businessmen at the conference, I chose to sit in the back as the president of the American Sustainable Business Council gave a talk about the importance of aligning American policy with the goals of sustainable businesses. During the talk, he relayed that part of his strategy for influencing policy was to hold a conference at the White House to sway policymakers.
After his talk, afraid that I might be overstepping my role as a youth at this conference brimming with professionals, I approached the ASBC president. After discussing how valuable and insightful his vision was, I pushed past my personal comfort and forced myself to ask, “You know what your White House conference is missing?” He looked over at me, adjusting his initially reproachful expression to flash me a face of eager anticipation, for this had been the standard of behavior as people began to offer advice to one another at the conference. Before he could respond or shift his attention, I said, “Youth representation.” He laughed off my hopeful smile, gave me his card, told me to email him, and quickly turned to talk to the next person awaiting a chance for conversation.
Without much hope, I shot him a quick email a few days after the conference. Two weeks later, I received an invitation from the American Sustainable Business Council to attend its summit at the White House as a youth representative, waiving the fee to the conference.
Two weeks later, I received an invitation from the American Sustainable Business Council to attend its summit at the White House as a youth representative, waiving the fee to the conference.
The Bioneers Conference cultivates a level of inquisitiveness, gratitude, and respect among all participants, and this environment not only gave me a glimpse of my ideal career, but it also presented an atmosphere ripe with support and opportunity. Because of the conference, I now have my foot in the door of the White House and a toe in the ocean of my future."
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