Annual Desire for Change conference examines ways to "respect differences"

Late last year, St. Elizabeth Catholic High School in Thornhill hosted the York Catholic District School Board's annual "Desire for Change" conference, which included approximately 100 students and teachers from Catholic high schools across the region. The theme of the 2014 "Desire for Change" conference was "Respecting Differences," and this theme was incorporated throughout the day starting with an inspiring message from keynote speaker, Tim Huff.

Tim Huff works with children and adults facing various emotional, developmental, mental, social and physical challenges. At the conference, he shared stories about the power of commitment and how he was called by God to serve the marginalized and oppressed in his community. He stated that his goal was to bring hope, serve well, and to celebrate all of our differences.

At the conference, students also heard from representatives from Youth Speak, an organization that helps speakers share their personal experiences related to difficult and often stigmatized issues. The Youth Speaker representatives talked about drug experimentation, depression, cyberbullying, gender bias, and vandalism. Their stories made a significant impact on the students and teachers in attendance.

All of the speakers offered hope and advice on how to take steps toward recovery during times of need, focusing on the importance of support systems and being a source of strength for friends during difficult times. Along with challenges faced at school, speakers also addressed the difficulties that some students are facing at home, including abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. Overall, speakers shared empowering and affirming messages and emphasized that change begins with one person.

Youth Speak is committed to educating parents, empowering youth, promoting empathy between peers, and giving students access to resources during times of need.